Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Tucked away inside the U.S. EPA’s docket on PFOA, a chemical manufactured by DuPont, is a 5-page letter written in April 2003 by the Weinberg Group, an international scientific consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. The letter is addressed to DuPont’s vice president of special initiatives, Jane Brooks, and lays out a proposal for how the Weinberg Group can help the company deal with a growing regulatory and legal crisis over PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid).
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Passages from the letter describe how the firm will develop a defense strategy based on science. “[W]e will harness, focus and involve the scientific and intellectual capital of our company with one goal in mind—creating the outcome our client desires.” Another sentence reads, “This would include facilitating the publication of papers and articles dispelling the alleged nexus between PFOA and teratogenicity as well as other claimed harm.”
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[BU's David] Ozonoff, who sat on EPA’s Science Advisory Board review panel for PFOA, points to a passage in the memo that details how to identify the likely health benefits of the chemical “by analyzing existing data, and/or constructing a study to establish” that PFOA is safe and “offers real health benefits.” The next sentence mentions the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood and the prevention of coronary artery disease.
“That blew me away,” says Ozonoff, adding that data on PFOA seem to show an effect on lipid metabolism; this raises concerns that the chemical may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. “This [proposal] is a ‘manufacturing doubt’ strategy. If you say, ‘Gee, this might cause heart disease,’ then they’ll come back with another story that says it’s good for your heart.” Constructing this sort of narrative, he says, sets a research agenda that any independent scientist wandering into the field must address.
In other words -- the article asserts -- the group is offering to produce science to support a potential litigation position. Litigation-driven scholarship is a very interesting area, and part of my current research. Hopefully I'll have a draft article available for comments in the next month or so.
(Via Blog 702.)