Chemical industry-funded senators want to hide chemical industry funding of studies

By Travis Gettys
Monday, March 31, 2014 13:53 EDT
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'Young Scientist Dropping Liquid In Test Tubes' [Shutterstock]
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Republican lawmakers who are trying to change research disclosure rules to hide corporate influence received more than $150,000 in campaign contributions from chemical companies who stand to benefit from the change.

Corporations may already submit studies they’ve paid for themselves as evidence in court or during congressional debate, but they must disclose how the research was funded to reveal any possible conflicts of interest.

However, this nod toward transparency apparently imposed too great a burden on the silica industry, which wanted to provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with research that found its products to be safe.

OSHA chief David Michaels wants to update guidelines for working with silica dust, a significant hazard for construction workers and others exposed to the industrial byproduct that can cause lung cancer and other deadly diseases.

“What I’m doing here is essentially saying the information that we will base our standard on has to be of the highest integrity, and we have to do it in a transparent manner, and conflict-of interest disclosure is an important component of both of those,” said Michaels, an Obama appointee. “It would be surprising right now if a scientific journal didn’t ask for that information.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and 15 other Republican senators sent a letter to OSHA objecting to the agency’s insistence that any evidence submissions include funding sources.

“Disclosing the funding sources of commenters who submit scientific or technical research raises questions about whether OSHA will use that information to prejudge the substance of those comments and could result in dissuading stakeholders from even submitting comments,” the senators said in the letter.

An Alexander staffer went further, suggesting the requirement would limit debate.

“The chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making,” said Alexander spokeswoman Liz Wolgemuth.

As The Daily Beast points out, any brief filed in federal court must include a disclosure of interest by those making the arguments, and senators must disclose any campaign contribution over $200.

The campaign contribution requirement allowed Maplight.org to reveal those 16 lawmakers – who comprise nearly one-third of Senate Republicans – had received $151,266 between July 24 and Nov. 16, when the letter was written, from companies that opposed new OSHA regulations on silica dust.

[Image: Young Scientist Dropping Liquid In Test Tubes via Shutterstock]

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