Ford spent $40m to influence asbestos science

Ford Motor Company spent $40 million on scientific studies designed to cast doubt on the link between asbestos brake linings and cancers including mesothelioma, an investigation has found.

The probe by the Washington DC-based Center for Public Integrity found the firm, stung by asbestos disease lawsuits involving mechanics, first retained toxicologist Dennis Paustenbach, then vice-president at the consulting firm Exponent, in 2001.

“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,” CPI claims. “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, recounted 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.

John Dement, a professor in Duke University’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said: “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.”

David Egilman, a clinical professor of family medicine at Brown University and editor of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, argues that the papers are deceptive by design. “They can throw a lot of things at the wall and hope something sticks with the jury,” he said. “It forces people like me or other scientists to try to clean up each thing that was thrown at the wall, one at a time. And by the end of the day, that could be confusing to a jury or judge.”

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