Conflicts of Interest in
Money buys science --
21 July 2001
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Money buys science -- John Graham, "usual suspect" (Fist).
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 05:01:28 -0500
From: Roy Beavers <email@example.com>
Organization: EMF-L List
To: guru <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that must be overcome if we are ever to bring the EMF hazards issue to the public's attention ... is an awareness by the public that money buys scientific results.
The "risk analysis" work (record) of John Graham is perhaps a case in point. I am reassured that "the truth is possible" when I see something like the Washington Post article below.....
The Post article (written by a U.S. senator) does a good job of spotlighting the fact that it is a money-value premise that DRIVES the "science" of risk analysis. Profits, risk analysis presumes, ARE more important than people.......!!!!
The public simply MUST learn that it DOES make a difference ... WHO IS PAYING FOR THE RESEARCH!!!........Read carefully below....... (Thanks to Stewart for sending this......!!)
Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness....
PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROFITS!!!
All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing...
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: John Graham.
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 15:20:56 +1000
From: Stewart Fist <email@example.com>
Organization: Independent writer and columnist
Dr George Carlo selected JohnGraham and Susan Putman from the Harvard Risk Assessment Group to sit on his first WTR Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) panel. .
Graham Flunks The Cost-Benefit Test
By Dick Durbin
Monday, July 16, 2001; Page A15 Is a little bit of dioxin good for you? John Graham thinks it might be. Graham is President Bush's nominee to head an obscure but powerful White House agency, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is part of the Office of Management and Budget. Its administrator acts as a sort of "regulatory czar" who can block any new regulation, whether arsenic standards for drinking water, worker-protection rules or the public's right to know about toxic chemicals.
As a participant in the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board subcommittee on dioxin, Graham said that reducing dioxin levels too far might "do more harm . . . than good." Incredibly, he argued that dioxin might prevent cancer in some cases, a hypothesis that a senior EPA official called "irresponsible and inaccurate." Graham also told Congress that smog protects people from the harmful effects of too much sunlight.
He also rejects the notion that pesticides on foods may be a health concern, calling this a "trivial" problem that reflects public "paranoia" about toxic chemicals. He claims that our choice of environmental regulations contributes to the death of 60,000 people under a theory he calls "statistical murder."
Graham's breathtaking pronouncements are not limited to environmental concerns. Safe housing codes also can kill people, according to one of his research projects sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders. Using cell phones while driving should not be regulated, says Graham, even though his research, funded by AT&T Wireless, shows such use can lead to 1,000 additional highway deaths a year. And Graham is concerned that our nation is overreacting in an "emotional gush" to school shootings at places such as Columbine High School.
How does he arrive at these "scientific" results? Graham is an academic in the field of risk analysis. His philosophy, which involves "discounting" lives, is that we should get the biggest bang for the buck when reducing risks. Why spend society's scarce resources on programs that would save, say, only 100 lives when, for the same amount, we could save 1,000?
While this makes sense on its face, Graham's controversial research always seems to wind up with the same conclusion: We don't need more regulation in the private sector. In Graham's view, government resources are best spent advising pregnant women not to smoke or painting bright white dividing lines on all our roads.
Environmental regulations mainly show up in Graham's research as a waste of money, and as such, the choice of regulations makes us responsible for "statistical murder" by drawing resources away from other, more cost-effective programs.
Lisa Heinzerling at Georgetown University Law Center has testified that by "discounting" the value of human life, Graham's research has a built-in bias against environmental regulations. (Discounting is a practice normally applied to money, not lives, but it has been adopted by many risk analysts. It assigns less value to a life saved in the future than to one saved in the present). For instance, Graham thinks the value EPA has sometimes used for a human life of $4.8 million is at least 10 times too high.
Another problem with Graham's research is that it seriously muddles the distinction between regulations that exist and those that do not. One of his favorite examples of wasteful environmental regulation is a chloroform standard at paper mills that -- according to his calculations -- costs society almost $100 billion to save one year of one person's life. The only problem: This regulation does not exist; it was a hypothetical example used in an academic study and was never offered -- or even intended -- as a serious regulatory proposal.
These flaws notwithstanding, the regulated community loves Graham's brand of science. His research center at Harvard University is funded by a who's who of Fortune 500 companies and powerful trade associations; not a single environmental or consumer group representative sits on the center's advisory board. Academics generally cheer when one of their own is nominated to a prominent position. But 10 of Graham's senior colleagues at Harvard, a Nobel Prize winner among them, have written to me opposing his nomination, as have scores of other scientists, doctors, public health professionals and environmental, consumer and labor organizations.
I have conducted my own cost-benefit analysis on Graham's nomination. His appointment to this important position would be too much of a risk. When his nomination comes to the floor of the Senate, I will vote no.
The writer is a Democratic senator from Illinois.
OF FURTHER INTEREST
Graham asked for, and received $25,000 check from Philip Morris, but had to give it back when the administrators of Harvard University found out that a tobacco company was the source. He then received a slightly smaller amount from Kraft, a subsidiary of PM -- and this was negotiated by one of the tobacco business's internal lobbyists. Note the stilted language in her "On the Record" memo.
Stewart Fist - writer and columnist
http://www.abc.net.au/http/sfist/ (some archives)
http://www.electric-words.com (main archives)
70 Middle Harbour Road, Lindfield, 2070, N.S.W, Australia
Phone +61 2 9416 7458 Fax +61 2 9416 4582