Attacking the science behind environmental health and safety rules has long been an industry tactic. The American Council on Science and Health, a leader of the charge, has for years claimed that it is not an industry shill but an independent science organization. But it doesn't disclose its funders. Now documents reveal most of its funding comes from industries who stand to profit from its claims.
"The American Council on Science and Health bills itself as an independent research and advocacy organization devoted to debunking 'junk science.' It's a controversial outfit—a 'group of scientists…concerned that many important public policies related to health and the environment did not have a sound scientific basis,' it says—that often does battle with environmentalists and consumer safety advocates, wading into public health debates to defend fracking, to fight New York City's attempt to ban big sugary sodas, and to dismiss concerns about the potential harms of the chemical bisphenol-A (better known at BPA) and the pesticide atrazine. The group insists that its conclusions are driven purely by science. It acknowledges that it receives some financial support from corporations and industry groups, but ACSH, which reportedly stopped disclosing its corporate donors two decades ago, maintains that these contributions don't influence its work and agenda.
Yet internal financial documents provided to Mother Jones show that ACSH depends heavily on funding from corporations that have a financial stake in the scientific debates it aims to shape. The group also directly solicits donations from these industry sources around specific issues. ACSH's financial links to corporations involved in hot-button health and safety controversies have been highlighted in the past, but these documents offer a more extensive accounting of ACSH's reliance on industry money—giving a rare window into the operations of a prominent and frequent defender of industry in the science wars."