No On David Michaels: A Chance to End the Sale of Science

When scientific evidence becomes a commodity, it is cheapened and easily misused, making it difficult for anyone to sort life-saving facts from fiction.  Remember this story about the “scientifically based” scare tactics used to market Bisphenol A -free plastics?  Thanks to the efforts of Fenton Communications, the liberal marketing firm behind the “General Betray Us” campaign, BPA has a bad reputation, especially among parents who worry the chemical may harm their children.  These parents pay exorbitant prices for BPA-free products, despite the fact that numerous independent studies have proven the chemical’s safety.  Many of these more expensive products come from BornFree, the company that hired Fenton Communications.  BornFree makes money every time the BPA controversy comes up in the news; they benefit from phony scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, we may see more of this in the near future.

An editorial in yesterday’s Washington Times highlights David Michaels, President Obama’s nominee to head the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

The Times describes Mr. Michaels as “a virulently anti-business epidemiologist” who “is one the nation’s foremost proponents of allowing junk science to be used in jackpot-justice lawsuits.”

It turns out David Michaels was also behind the anti-BPA junk-science scare campaign which has cost Americans untold numbers of jobs and has lined the pockets of trial lawyers with millions of dollars from the pockets of hard-working parents who bought into his fear campaign.

Mr. Michaels has admitted that the phony-science racket works well for sellers:

“Tobacco figured this out, and essentially it’s the same model,” said David Michaels, who was a federal regulator in the Clinton administration. “If you fight the science, you’re able to postpone regulation and victim compensation, as well. As in this case, eventually the science becomes overwhelming. But if you can get five or 10 years of avoiding pollution control or production of chemicals, you’ve greatly increased your product.”

No one benefits when science is prostituted in this way. Everyone loses when scientific evidence can be bought and sold as a commodity because this weakens even the most legitimate findings, making it difficult to distinguish between real and invented dangers.

President Obama has pledged to “restore science to its rightful place”, and happily his administration now has a perfect opportunity to do so.  The Senate must help end the lucrative sale of scientific claims by rejecting David Michaels’ nomination to head OSHA. ‘