The Industries That Cried Wolf

by Stuart Shapiro

The question of how harmful diesel exhaust is has long been debated.  Now a government-funded research effort is ready to publish some results on the subject based on studies of miners who have long had to breathe diesel fumes, but not so fast.

A protracted legal battle over an $11.5-million health study into whether diesel exhaust damages the lungs of miners has suddenly widened to take on scientific peer review. Editors with at least four research publications say they have received a letter advising them against “publication or other distribution” of data and draft documents. The warning, including a vague statement about “consequences” that could ensue if the advice is ignored, is signed by Henry Chajet, an attorney at the Patton Boggs firm in Washington, D.C., and a lobbyist for the Mining Awareness Resource Group, which works on behalf of the mining industry.

To be honest, I have no idea how harmful diesel exhaust is (I mean, I’m sure it’s not good for you but how bad is it?).  The problem is, when you deny that tobacco is harmful, when you deny climate change has a significant man-made component, when you argue that mercury is not toxic, you lose all credibility.  And the only rational reaction to a story like this one about diesel exhaust is “what are they trying to hide” by suppressing this research?

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart Shapiro Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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