A conversation with the lawyer Rob Bilott is like a slap across the face. It doesn’t feel good. But it does get your attention.
According to Bilott, we face a “unique health threat” from a class of industrial chemicals that most Americans have never heard of. These chemicals are widely used in everyday products such as non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, even though science shows they are linked to a range of deadly diseases, reproductive problems and other ailments. Powerful corporations are fighting to protect the use of these profitable chemical compounds, Bilott says, and US regulators are doing next to nothing to stop them.
It’s a name aimed at inspiring consumer confidence: The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) proclaims itself to be a pro-science, consumer advocacy nonprofit group that exists only to support legitimate science and medicine while debunking “health scares.”
The organization asserts on its website that it does not “represent any industry” and states that the work of ACSH columnists and the group’s panel of scientific advisors is simply to help consumers, journalists, and policymakers “see past scaremongers and activist groups” who wrongly raise concerns about genetically modified crops, pesticides, industrial chemicals, nuclear power, natural gas, and other issues.
But while the name carries with it the aura of an authentically independent voice on controversial questions of science and public health, internal ACSH records show in reality the organization has relied for years on hefty donations from corporations and foundations whose interests ACSH promotes.