Ford spent $40 million to reshape asbestos science

The lawyer, Darrell Grams, explained that Ford had been losing lawsuits filed by former auto mechanics alleging asbestos in brakes had given them mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer virtually always tied to asbestos exposure. Grams asked Paustenbach, then a vice president with the consulting firm Exponent, if he had any interest in studying the disease’s possible association with brake work. A meeting cemented the deal.

Paustenbach, a prolific author of scientific papers who’d worked with Grams on Dow Corning’s defense against silicone breast-implant illness claims, had barely looked at asbestos to that point. “I really started to get serious about studying asbestos after I met Mr. Grams, that’s for sure,” Paustenbach testified in a sworn deposition in June 2015. Before that, he said, the topic “wasn’t that interesting to me.”

Thus began a relationship that, according to recent depositions, has enriched Exponent by $18.2 million and brought another $21 million to Cardno ChemRisk, a similar firm Paustenbach founded in 1985, left and restarted in 2003. All told, testimony shows, Ford has spent nearly $40 million funding journal articles and expert testimony concluding there is no evidence brake mechanics are at increased risk of developing mesothelioma. This finding, repeated countless times in courtrooms and law offices over the past 15 years, is an attempt at scientific misdirection aimed at extricating Ford from lawsuits, critics say.

“They’ve published a lot, but they’ve really produced no new science,” said John Dement, a professor in Duke University’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and an asbestos researcher for more than four decades. “Fifteen years ago, I thought the issue of asbestos risk assessment was pretty much defined. All they’ve accomplished is to try to generate doubt where, really, little doubt existed.”

[Article continues at original source]

Source: Center for Public Integrity


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