Toxic Smoke and Mirrors

Overexposure to manganese has caused Parkinson's-like symptoms for thousands of welders, but the makers of manganese-containing welding wire and electrodes are avoiding liability by manipulating science. Jim Morris writes that "the welding companies paid more than $12.5 million to 25 organizations and 33 researchers, virtually all of whom have published papers dismissing connections between welding fumes and workers' ailments. ... The pattern doesn't surprise George Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels, author of Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. Corporate-funded research articles are often 'advocacy documents that are being produced purely for use in court cases,' he says. 'It's unfortunate, because it really pollutes the scientific literature.'" Industrial toxicologists have known since the 1930s that manganese exposure damages the brain and central nervous system. Morris notes that "if you were to graph out the welding industry's spending on science, you'd see a dramatic uptick in 2003 -- the year an Illinois jury awarded $1 million to a welder named Larry Elam." Since then, mounting lawsuits by injured welders have driven a funding boom for pro-industry scientists.