An investigative series, published jointly by VICE News and the Center for Public Integrity, has uncovered “rented white coats,” better summed up as professionals who were paid to help companies cover up the dangers of asbestos.
Evan Nelson, a former attorney of Tucker Ellis & West, once defended many companies that used asbestos in products and on job sites. The companies, fearing the threat of being sued by workers who developed asbestos-related diseases, hired the lawyer to defend them.
Nelson couldn’t readily find enough evidence to suggest that asbestos did not cause illnesses, and in turn, decided that tobacco was the culprit. To prove his theory, he needed a professional, such as a scientist, to help back him up.
In 2008, Nelson sent an email to former Harvard School of Public Health, professor, Peter Valberg, asking him to help prove that tobacco’s radioactive particles caused more instances of mesothelioma than asbestos.
“We can collaborate to publish several key, revolutionary articles that you will see unfold as I present this stuff to you. It is amazing that no one has pout [sic] this together before me, but I am confident that you will agree it is solid science that proves tobacco smoke causes mesothelioma — you just have to look at the tissue [sic] through the proper lense [sic].”
However, decades of research has already been poured into researching cigarette smoking and its affect on people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a long list of comprehensive research done painstakingly by scientists, physicians, and researchers who gave blood, sweat, and tears to determine to understand the impact of smoking, and none of the findings show that it can cause mesothelioma.
Yet, instead of refusing Nelson’s offer, Valberg wrote him back and said that the information was “intriguing.” He also agreed to publish the information in peer review journals for a 10% discount off of his usual $330.00 an hour rate. Valberg also agreed to support Nelson’s information as an expert witness during mesothelioma lawsuits.
As government-funded science declines, more and more scientists are willing to oblige to this kind of immoral behavior. Per Bruce Lanphear, a Simon Fraser University professor, scientists such as Valberg, who currently works with the risk science consulting firm Gradient Corporation, are incredibly dangerous, as they are debunking true evidence and defending their clients even when they know their client’s evidence isn’t credible.
Gradient never participates in conducting animal or human studies. Instead, the scientists focus on criticizing work that goes against their clients.
“They truly are the epitome of rented white coats,” said Lanphear.
Fortunately, Nelson’s underhanded ways were discovered. He ended up losing his job after the law firm he worked for learned of his email exchange with Valberg. Now living at home with his parents at age 51, Nelson insists that he didn’t want any scientist at Gradient to do anything that science did not support.
“I get that trying to say that radiation from tobacco smoke causes mesothelioma, that’s on the fringe. In all my conversations with Gradient, I was always very clear that I wanted them to look at the science and I didn’t want them to do anything that the science didn’t support,” said Nelson.
Resources and Help for Asbestos Victims
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other illness related to asbestos, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. For additional assistance, contact us 800-694-4856.