• 01 JUN 20
    • 0

    Relevant paper: Richard Doll and Alice Stewart reputation and the shaping of scientific “truth”

    A brief review of this paper follows by Lloyd Morgan, Senior Research Fellow at the Environmental Health Trust: www.environmentalhealthtrust.org/


    Perhaps, I am over simplifying this article, that what I discovered as I read the whole document is both the joy of scientific discovery, and ugliness of scientific perfidy””a highly profitable perfidy. Richard Doll was seen as a great scientist, but in fact he was a manipulator of science. For example, he was well paid by various industries to belittle scientific truth.

    A year after “Sir” Richard Doll died (yes he was knighted), the media was publicizing his industry ties. The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported “ Sir Richard Doll, the celebrated epidemiologist who established that smoking causes lung cancer, was receiving a consultancy fee of $1,500 a day in the mid-1980s from Monsanto, then a major chemical company and now better known for its GM crops business”

    Doll shaped cancer research in the United States and the United Kingdom, assuring that occupational cancer remains a low priority and putting a virtual end to inquiry into the environmental causes of cancer.”

    Meanwhile, Dr. Alice Stewart reported “that fetal X-rays doubled the risk the chance of a childhood cancer” while Doll denied fetal X-rays was even a risk for cancer. “Steward saved lives, too: putting an end to the x-raying of pregnant women, she spared the human race untold number of malignancies and mutations.”

    Doll took positions “on Agent Orange, vinyl chloride, and radiation” where victims were “denied compensations, endured further exposure, suffered, and died.”

    “The confusion sown by Doll, and those who have accepted his reassurances about low-dose radiation, has enabled proponents of the nuclear industry to proceed as though the risks were understood and under control, to pass off as a “clean” energy source that has polluted half the globe.

    The Chernobyl catastrophe released hundreds of times the radioactivity released by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined: 57% of it spread outside the former USSR, contaminating more than 40% of Europe and the entire Northern Hemisphere (Yablokov, Nesterenko, and Nesterenko 2009).”

    Doll began to display what an observer described as a “penchant for splenetic and patronizing attacks on those who published findings running counter to his assertions” (Rory O”Neill, editor of Injury Watch, personal communication, Aug. 20, 2008). When asked why he had not considered an assessment of vinyl chloride by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, which

    had found a link between vinyl chloride and brain cancer””as well as lung cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma””he called the investigators “incompetent” (Walker 2011a).

    Of the Swedish cancer researcher Lennart Hardell (2006), who had testified against dioxin in the 1985 court case, Doll wrote an unsolicited letter to the judge, claiming that “many of his published statements were exaggerated or not supportable . . . [and] should no longer be cited as scientific evidence” (Walker 2011b).

    Hardell termed Doll”s science epidemonology (Walker 2011a). Of the work of Devra Lee Davis, a leading analyst of environmental toxins and cancer, he used the terms “uninteresting,” “uninformative,” “boring,” “old junk” (Marshall 1990). It is difficult to square this with the claim made by his biographer in a 2009 podcast, that he was “always supporting of other scientists.”

    Industry, and its compatriots, intensely work to hide the hazards of their products. David Michaels” two books, “Doubt Is Their Product,” [2020] and “The Triumph of Doubt, Dark Money and the Science of Deception” describes industry”s malfeasance in great detail. Corporate Ties That Bind, and Examination of Corporate Manipulations and Vested Interested in Public Health (Edited by Martin J. Walker, 2019).

    The central message of this email is that industry and it trolls (e.g., Richard Doll) continues to attack science in every way possible, if it will improved their profits.

    I encourage, all who receive this email and its attachment, to forward both this email and it attachment to your colleagues.

    Best to all,

    Lloyd Morgan



    ABSTRACT As the world watched the Fukushima reactors release radionuclides into the ocean and atmosphere, the warnings of Dr.Alice Stewart about radiation risk and the reassurances of Sir Richard Doll assumed renewed relevance. Doll and Stewart,
    pioneer cancer epidemiologists who made major contributions in the 1950s””he by demonstrating the link between lung cancer and smoking, she by discovering that fetal X-rays double the chance of a childhood cancer””were locked into opposition about low-dose radiation risk. When she went public with the discovery that radiation at a fraction of the dose “known” to be dangerous could kill a child, her reputation plummeted, whereas Doll, foremost among her detractors, was knighted and lauded as “the world”s most distinguished medical epidemiologist” for his work. Their lives and careers, so closely intertwined, took contrary courses, he becoming “more of the establishment” (as he said), while she became more oppositional. When it was discovered, after his death, that he”d been taking large sums of money from industries whose chemicals he was clearing of cancer risk, his reputation remained unscathed; it is now enshrined in the “Authorized Biography” (2009) commissioned by the Wellcome Institute, along with Doll”s denigration of Stewart as an “embittered” woman and biased scientist. Stewart lived long enough to see radiation science move her way, to see international committees affirm, in the 1990s, that there is no threshold beneath which radiation ceases to be dangerous; recent evidence from Chernobyl is bearing out her warnings. But a look at the making and breaking of these reputations reveals the power of status, position, and image to shape scientific “knowledge” and social policy.

    AS THE WORLD WATCHED the Fukushima reactors spew incalculable quantities of radionuclides into the sea and air and wondered what effect this would have on our health and that of generations to come, the warnings of Dr. Alice Stewart about low-dose radiation risk assumed a terrible timeliness.As industry, governments, and the media attempted to quiet the alarms, assuring us that radioactive releases will dilute and disperse and become too miniscule to matter, the reassurances of Sir Richard Doll, foremost among Stewart”s detractors, also became relevant. It is clear, as proponents and opponents of nuclear energy thrash it out, that there is not much more scientific consensus about the hazards of low-dose radiation exposure today than there was half a century ago, when these pioneer radiation epidemiologists locked into opposition.Their arguments are reiterated as mainstream radiation scientists invoke the Hiroshima studies to assuage fears about Fukushima, while critics cite Chernobyl as a warning.

    Stewart”s career trajectory reads like a cautionary tale to anyone considering challenging received opinion in such a high-stakes, highly politicized area as radiation science.Though she began with honors that came to few women of her time, the first woman under 40 and the ninth ever to be elected to the Royal College of Physicians (in 1946), once she discovered that fetal X-rays double the risk of a childhood cancer, she never again received major funding in the United Kingdom. Her findings””published in the Lancet (1956) and expanded in the British Medical Journal (1958)””were not welcomed: the arms race was ratcheting
    up, the governments of the United States and United Kingdom were promoting “the friendly atom,” and nobody wanted to hear that “a tiny fraction” of a radiation dose “known” to be safe could kill a child. Studies of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, the basis of radiation safety standards throughout the world, assured that risk diminished as dose decreased until it disappeared altogether.
    Stewart was suggesting there was no threshold beneath which radiation ceased to be dangerous.

    First to launch a study to discredit her was Dr. Richard Doll, later, Sir Richard. They moved in the same circles, sat on the same committees and editorial boards; their lives were so intertwined that Stewart taught medicine to the woman Doll later married. Stewart was born in 1906, received her medical degree from Cambridge in 1936, and worked more than 20 years at Oxford; Doll, born in 1912, received his degree from St. Thomas Hospital Medical School in 1937 and was appointed Regius Professor at Oxford in 1969.They both started out with left-wing ideals and an interest in the environmental causes and prevention of disease, both taking part in the Socialist Medical Association that campaigned for the National Health Service after the war, he moving further left than she, joining the Communist Party. But for his demonstration of the link between lung cancer and smoking in the 1950s, he was made Regius Professor, knighted, and had a building named after him that became home to Oxford”s Cancer Research U.K. Epidemiology Unit and the Clinical Trial Service Unit, both of which he helped found. He spent the latter part of his career at Oxford”s prestigious Imperial Cancer Research Center, becoming, in his own words, ever “more of the establishment””””about as establishment as the
    Bank of England,” a colleague quipped (Keating 2009b, p. 211)””while Stewart became more oppositional. Drawn into international controversy by her 1970s studies of the Hanford nuclear workers””which found a greater risk to low-dose radiation than was being claimed””she testified on behalf of workers, veterans, and downwinders, while Doll testified against them…SNIP



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