David Michaels, the author of Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, was confirmed December 3 to head the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Michaels has contributed to framing our understanding of the elected officials, corporate funders, “free market” groups, and contrarian scientists whose machinations drive the global warming disinformation campaign.
Dr. Michaels has been a research professor and interim chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C. He was the U.S. Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for Environment, Safety and Health from 1998 through January 2001
The American Public Health Association (APHA) praised Michaels during the confirmation process and urged the full Senate to confirm him quickly. “Dr. Michaels is eminently qualified to lead OSHA,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., FACP, FACEP (E). “He has proven his skill at protecting workers in a regulatory setting and has earned the respect of the scientific community for his commitment to science as the backbone of sound public health and environmental regulation.”
OMB Watch, commenting on his confirmation to office, said “Michaels now faces the challenge of restoring OSHA to its role as protector of our nation’s workers – a role the Bush administration had little interest in. During those eight years, the queue of occupational hazards in need of regulation grew longer, while the on-the-ground monitoring of worksites became more lenient.”
We wish Dr. Michaels good luck in his new position. We’re reading his book, Doubt Is Their Product (Oxford University Press, 2008), which tells the story of how the strategy of “manufactured uncertainty” about scientific evidence, pioneered by the tobacco industry, has been used by corporate interests for decades to manipulate public opinion, politics, and government agencies in the service of undermining the regulation of many hazardous products to protect health and safety. Michaels includes a few pages on the global warming disinformation campaign (which has been dealt with at length by others) and its political interference with honest climate change communication.
Donald Kennedy, former Editor-in-Chief, Science:
“In Doubt Is Their Product, David Michaels gives a lively and convincing history of how clever public relations has blocked one public health protection after another. The techniques first used to reassure us about tobacco were adapted to reassure us about asbestos, lead, vinyl chloride-and risks to nuclear facilities workers, where Dr. Michaels’ experience as the relevant Assistant Secretary of Energy gave him an inside view. And if you’re worried about climate change, keep worrying, because the same program is underway there.”
Neal Lane, former Science Advisor to President Bill Clinton and former Director of the National Science Foundation:
“This well-researched book by someone who truly knows the system is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the cozy relationship between industry and regulatory agencies on matters that affect the health and safety of our families and neighbors. The cited examples illustrate how, with the help of irresponsible members of Congress and other public officials, corporate greed can trump any sense of ethics, morality, and human compassion.”
Dick Taverne, Nature:
“David Michaels has written a powerful, thorough indictment of the way big business has ignored, suppressed or distorted vital scientific evidence to the detriment of the public’s health.”
Chemical & Engineering News:
“The book is a shocking portrayal of the tactics used by corporate America to delay public health and environmental regulation of their products for the sake of profit…It is a must read for anyone interested in public health and environmental protection.”
For recent and archived CSW posts on the manufacturing of doubt and uncertainty on global climatic disruption: