Enterprise, October 19, 2017:
Dr. David Lewis
Environmental groups in Wilmington, NC are trying to stop chemical companies from polluting their drinking water with perfluorochemicals, called PFCs, which are highly persistent and magnified up the food chain. They are an increasingly common contaminate in food, water and household dusts. DuPont de Nemours & Company, for example, discharges a PFC abbreviated PFOA.
Numerous studies have linked PFCs to genetic and reproductive damage, developmental problems in unborn children, and cancer. The scientific literature, therefore, contains ample evidence that chemical companies are to blame. In a letter to DuPont, The Weinberg Group, a leading public relations firm, offered to reshape the scientific literature.
The firm stated that it would “construct” a scientific study to establish that PFOA is safe and provides “real health benefits.” Constructing studies with predetermined outcomes is not science in any sense of the word. And any benefits reported in the scientific literature from such a study would be nothing but fake science.
Unfortunately, the peer-reviewed scientific literature is filled with fake science. During my tenure as a research scientist at EPA and the University of Georgia, I observed how politics and commercial interests often lead to science, and all of its very real benefits, being skewed to support government policies, industry practices and commercial products. Fake science, especially when it involves research on public health and the environment, can produce catastrophic consequences. As President Eisenhower warned in his Farewell Address, “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”
The engine that drives this whole process lies in another service that The Weinberg Group offered DuPont. Namely, it proposed to shape Daubert standards in ways most beneficial to manufacturers. Daubert standards were established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 when it ruled that scientific evidence must be generally accepted by the scientific community.
The Supreme Court’s approach seems both logical and reasonable. But, in practice, it only works in the public interest when science is shielded from the influence of politics and money. The United Kingdom, for example, prohibits the central government from setting national research priorities and funding universities. By contrast, most academic research in the U.S. is funded by federal agencies controlled by political appointees. Our system is geared toward supporting government policies and industry practices.
For science to benefit the public, courts must consider whether valid science that is not generally reflected in the scientific literature is being systematically suppressed and replaced with fake science. In 2008, for example, Judge Anthony Alaimo of the Southern District of Georgia disregarded evidence EPA and UGA published in the scientific literature, and ruled against the USDA, after finding that they had suppressed my research and published fabricated data.
David L. Lewis, Ph.D., a former EPA research microbiologist, is the author of Science for Sale and Research Director for the Focus for Health Foundation.
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David Lewis, Ph.D.
Former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist
David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic.