Industry influence over science and public health policy challenged

Wed, Mar 4, 2015


Kathleen Ruff,

Two articles, just published by the International Journal of Occupational & Environmental Health, examine how flawed and distorted research, funded by the asbestos industry and other industries, undermines public health protection.

In 2014, David Bernstein published an article, The health risk of chrysotile asbestos, promoting the asbestos industry’s claim that chrysotile asbestos can be safely used. Bernstein did not disclose his extensive financial ties to asbestos lobby organisations. As a result of a complaint, the journal required Bernstein to publish a Correction disclosing his industry ties.

Now, in addition to this unethical conduct by Bernstein, the article below exposes the fact that Bernstein’s “research” is scientifically flawed and distorted, omits critical evidence on harm caused by chrysotile asbestos and demonstrates limited clinical and scientific knowledge.

How conflicted authors undermine the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to stop all use of asbestos: spotlight on studies showing that chrysotile is carcinogenic and facilitates other non-cancer asbestos-related diseases.

Baur X, Soskolne CL, Lemen RA, Schneider J, Woitowitz HJ, Budnik LT., Int J Occup Environ Health, 2015 Mar 2. [Epub ahead of print],

“The asbestos industry has promoted and funded research based on selected literature, ignoring both clinical and scientific knowledge. In this piece, we highlight a prominent example of a conflicted publication that sought to undermine the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to stop the use of all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos. Independent and rigorous scientific data provide sufficient evidence that chrysotile asbestos, like other forms of asbestos, is a cause of asbestos-related morbidity and premature mortality.”

A second article puts forward examples of how corporate influence has resulted in compromised medical and public health research with profound influence over public policy processes, from tobacco, asbestos, chemical, pharmaceutical, and car industries.

Ethics, morality, and conflicting interests: how questionable professional integrity in some scientists supports global corporate influence in public health.

Baur X, Budnik LT, Ruff K, Egilman DS, Lemen RA, Soskolne CL, Int J Occup Environ Health. 2015 Mar 2. [Epub ahead of print],

“In this article, we provide examples of how sound scientific reasoning and evidence-gathering are undermined through compromised scientific enquiry resulting in misleading science, decision-making, and policy intervention. We call for increased sensitivity, full transparency, and the implementation of effective ethical and professional praxis rules at all relevant regulatory levels to rout out inappropriate corporate influence in science. This is needed because influencing the integrity of scientists who engage in such activities cannot be depended upon.”


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