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Corporate Corruption of Science and Abuse of Epidemiology

By Nachman Brautbar, M.D.


This manuscript has long been in my mind. I am glad that two leading scientists have recently published works related to this important issue that may affect millions of Americans and others around the world. The two excellent studies are those of Dr. David S. Egilman and Susanna Rankin Bohme[1], and Dr. Egilman and Marion Billings.[2]

The first study is entitled, "Corporate corruption of science" 1. To those readers who are not familiar, a constant fight occurs between some big corporations, who are there to make money regardless, and the scientist, who is on guard to prevent health damage from some industrial chemicals. According to Dr. Egilman, the United States in 2002 alone, 139 million workers suffered 5,500 fatal injuries, 294,500 illnesses, and 55,000 deaths from occupational causes. These are staggering numbers! The aim of corporations is to cut cost and maximize profit. According to one author, this translates to the lowest occupational standards. In the article, Dr. Egilman demonstrates how industry influences science at times with detrimental environmental consequences. One of the most vivid examples according to Dr. Egilman is the study by the Canadian asbestos companies. With careful management of "medical knowledge," the industry claimed for decades that asbestos miners did not suffer from asbestosis.

The manipulation of medical data is used to manufacture a clean bill of health for products that are hazardous. Indeed, these types of manipulation have caught the attention of extremely well recognized national and international scientists. In the manuscript, "Business bias: or how epidemiologic studies may underestimate or fail to detect increased risks of cancer and other diseases," Gennaro and Tomatis describe several strategies on how to reach negative results.[3]

In his recent writing, Michael Jacobson shows one way corporations spread their message of safety.[4] Many trusted and well-known organizations are heavily funded by corporate groups. Reiterates that professional organizations, academic research institutions, and charity groups receiving money from corporations may be limited or influenced by their corporate donors.

Among the solutions offered by some scientists, are:

  • Holding corporations and science funded by corporations accountable for the quality of their work;
  • Conducting research on the key areas in occupational and environmental health that are not being addressed by status quo science;
  • Developing a broad citizen movement to foster scientifically-literate citizen action for healthier workplaces, communities, and natural environments; and
  • Building a global network to address shared occupational and environmental health harms from both an activist and a scientific perspective.

[Disclosure: The majority of the writing and contents above is taken verbatim at times from the manuscript by Dr. Egilman. 1]


[1] Egilman, D.S.; et al. Over a Barrel: Corporate Corruption of Science and Its Effects on Workers and the Environment. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2005 Oct-Dec;11(4):331-7

[2] Egilman, D.S.; et al. Abuse of Epidemiology: Automobile Manufacturers Manufacture a Defense to Asbestos Liability. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2005 Oct-Dec;11(4):360-71

[3] Gennaro, V.; et al. Business Bias: How Epidemiologic Studies May Underestimate or Fail to Detect Increased Risks of Cancer and Other Diseases. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2005 Oct-Dec;11(4):356-9

[4] Jacobson, M.F. Lifting the Veil of Secrecy from Industry Funding of Nonprofit Health Organizations. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2005 Oct-Dec;11(4):349-55

Dr. Brautbar is a board-certified internist and nephrologist, and certified in forensic medicine. If you are interested in retaining Dr. Brautbar for forensic and expert witness testimony services, please submit the Contact Form.

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