At a trial over fluoride regulations this summer, EPA eschewed its own experts, hiring an outside company often deployed by corporations to deny and downplay chemicals’ health impacts.
Exponent Inc. — founded in the 1960s to defend automobile manufacturers in accident lawsuits — has since been busy questioning whether smoking causes lung cancer, whether Agent Orange exposure leads to prostate cancer, and whether per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are linked to kidney cancer.
Testifying for EPA in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Exponent experts cast doubt on studies that underpin federal regulation of lead and mercury, even as the agency’s own scientists — under subpoena by the plaintiffs — said new research does indeed warrant a review of fluoride’s neurotoxic effects.
That EPA would favor “rented white coats” over federal experts underscores just how cozy President Trump’s EPA has become with industry, experts say.
“You don’t hire Exponent to give you fresh eyes and an independent view to protect public health. You hire Exponent to defend a chemical,” said David Michaels, who formerly led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and has written two books on what he calls the “product defense” industry.
Exponent doesn’t only work on chemicals. The firm’s investigations led to the suspension of then-New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady during the 2014 “Deflategate” scandal and ensured the safety of dangerous amusement park rides. Michaels describes the company as bending science to help its clients, no matter the subject matter.
“Their expertise isn’t to a specific chemical; it is to manufacture uncertainty over any chemical, product or situation,” Michaels said. “There’s an expression in the garment trade, ‘Turn on the blue light, Sam, the man wants a blue suit’ — Exponent will do whatever their client wants.”…