The Corporate Manipulation of Asbestos Science

The corporate industry knew about the health concerns linked to asbestos exposure for many years before those health risks were made public. The same industry had a major influence on the science and politics of asbestos exposure, according to Dr. David Egilman of Brown University. Egilman recently gave a presentation on the topic related to his article “Dust diseases and the legacy of corporate manipulation of science and law” at the ADAO Asbestos Awareness Conference in Washington, D.C. (pictured.)

Corporate manipulation of asbestos science.Published in the April-June 2014 issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, Egilman’s article takes a closer look at previously secret corporate documents, depositions, trial testimonies and published literature to understand the historical manipulation of asbestos science.

Prior to publicizing the safety and health concerns of asbestos, many corporate executives were aware of the associated health risks. However, it became evident that asbestos manufacturers and organizations delayed the reduction of asbestos use and exposure in their businesses by covering up the link between asbestos exposure and serious diseases like mesothelioma.

“Companies that used and produced asbestos have continued and intensified their efforts to alter the asbestos-cancer literature and utilize dust-exposure standards to avoid liability and regulation,” Egilman states in the article.

The corporations’ excuse was that hesitancy persisted because of an ongoing debate over the dangers of asbestos. The companies wanted the public to believe the link between asbestos and cancer was not legitimate. In doing so, the corporations directly and deliberately manipulated the scientific literature.

Unfortunately, this manipulation may still exist today.

“There is evidence that industry manipulation of scientific literature remains a continuing problem today,” Egilman said. “[This results] in inadequate regulation and compensation and [perpetuates] otherwise preventable worker and consumer injuries and deaths.”

One example of this manipulation still taking place today is the presentation of certain documents in court to “cast doubt” on whether or not the asbestos-cancer relationship is legitimate. Corporations may use documents that cite corrupted information (such as the Braun-Truan paper) to question the acceptance of the asbestos-cancer relationship.


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