Sunday, October 4, 2015

Who's in the Doubt Industry?

Dr. Wilhelm C. Hueper, Chief of Environmental Cancer at the National Cancer Institute from 1938-64, believed cigarette smoking was not all that dangerous. Writing in 1955, he claimed, “The data . . . unmistakenly suggest that cigarette smoking is not a major factor in the causation of lung cancer.”
Dr. Hueper allowed the tobacco companies to use his work for their own ends.   According to Oreskes and Conway in Merchants of Doubt: “When the Tobacco Industry Research Committee learned about [Hueper’s talk questioning the tobacco-cancer link], they contacted Hueper who agreed to allow them to promote his work.”  It looks as though Hueper had joined the evil Doubt Industry.
Digging deeper into Hueper’s past we find that he was one of the first scientists to discover the links between pollution, occupational chemicals like asbestos and cancer.  Rachel Carson in her acknowledgments to Silent Spring, the book that launched the modern environmental movement in 1962 says, “I could not have completed the book without the generous help of these specialists: [including] . . . W. C. Hueper MD of the National Cancer Institute . . .”  Now it looks as though Hueper was on the side of the angels.
The discrepancy between Hueper’s support of tobacco and his struggle against the chemical industry is resolved when we learn that Hueper believed that pesticides and occupationally used chemicals, rather than tobacco, were causing the 20th century increase in lung cancer.
Sometimes people and issues are more complex than they appear at first glance.

No comments:

Post a Comment