- Testifies on “safety” of toxins.
- Admits Errors
in his analyses
- Polluters use his “testimony” to
justify emission of toxins
In 1954 Sir Richard Doll warned that,
besides smoking, exposure to nickel, asbestos, gas production
tars, and radioactivity were
major causes of cancer (12). In 1955, Doll published a landmark
report warning of high cancer rates in asbestos workers (51). In
1967, in the prestigious Rock Carling Fellowship lecture, Doll
further warned that an "immense" number of substances
were known to cause cancer, and that prevention of cancer was a
better strategy than cure (52). In the late sixties, Doll could
have been even considered a radical.
However, over subsequent decades, Doll drastically
changed his views and gradually emerged as a major defender of
interests. This role, still
virtually unrecognized, has been reinforced by his key influence in U.S. and
other cancer establishments worldwide. In these overlapping roles, Doll has
trivialized or dismissed industrial causes of cancer, which he predominantly
attributed to faulty lifestyle, particularly smoking. Furthermore, as the leading
spokesman for U.K. charities, Doll has insisted that they should focus exclusively
on scientific research, and not become involved in prevention research and
education (12). Doll’s track record speaks for itself:
- In 1976, in spite of well-documented concerns on the risks
of fluoridation of drinking water with industrial wastes (12),
Doll declared that it was "unethical" not
to do so (53).
- In his 1981 report on causes of cancer mortality in
the U.S. (13), in the absence of any scientific evidence, Doll
the role of environmental
occupational causes of cancer. He claimed that occupation was responsible
for 4% of mortality rather than at least 20%, as previously admitted by consultants
to the American Industrial Health Council of the Chemical Manufacturer's
- In 1982, as a longstanding consultant to Turner & Newall
leading U.K. asbestos corporation, Doll gave a speech to workers
at one of their largest plants (54). This speech was in response
TV exposé that
forced the Government to reduce occupational exposure limits to an
allegedly low level (1f/cc). Doll reassured the workers that the
new exposure limit would
reduce their lifetime risk of dying from cancer to "a pretty
outside chance" of
1 in 40 (2.5%). This, however, is an extremely high risk. Doll also
declined to testify on behalf of dying plaintiffs or their bereaved
families in civil
litigation against asbestos industries. Furthermore, Doll filed a
sworn statement in U.S. courts in support of T & N (54).
1983, in support of U.S. and U.K. petrochemical companies, Doll
claimed that lead in petroleum vehicle exhaust was not correlated
blood lead levels and learning disabilities in children (55). Doll's research
been generously funded by General Motors.
- In 1985, The U.K. Society
for the Prevention of Asbestos and Industrial Disease (SPAID)
criticized Doll for manipulating scientific information
in order to
assure us that only 1/100,000 people working in an office containing
undamaged asbestos risked disease and death (56).
- In 1985,
Doll wrote to the judge of an Australian Royal Commission, investigating
claims of veterans who had developed cancer following
exposure to the herbicide
Agent Orange in Vietnam, in strong support of the defense claims
of its major manufacturer, Monsanto. He stated that, "TCDD
(dioxin), which has been postulated to be a dangerous contaminant
of the herbicide, is at the most,
only weakly and inconsistently carcinogenic in animal experiments" (57).
In fact, dioxin is the most potent known tested carcinogen, apart
from confirmatory epidemiological evidence. Doll's defense, resulting
denial of the veterans'
claims, was publicized by Monsanto in full-page advertisements
in worldwide major newspapers.
- In 1987, Doll
dismissed evidence of childhood leukemia clusters near 15 U.K.
nuclear power plants (58). Faced with evidence of
a 21% excess of lymphoid
leukemia in children and young adults living within ten miles
of these plants, Doll advanced the novel hypothesis that "over
of nuclear workers rendered their children susceptible to unidentified
- In 1988, Doll claimed that the excess mortality
from leukemia and multiple myeloma among serviceman exposed to
atom bomb tests was a "statistical
quirk" (60). Doll revisited this study in 1993 and eliminated
the majority of cases which developed within two years of exposure,
that such short
latency disproved any possible causal relation (61).
- In a 1988
review, on behalf of the U.S. Chemical Manufacturer's Association,
Doll claimed that there was no significant evidence relating
occupational exposure to vinyl chloride and brain cancer (62). However, this
based on an
aggregation of several studies, in some of which the evidence
for such association was statistically significant.
- In a 1992
letter to a major U.K. newspaper, Doll pleaded the public to
trust industry and scientists and to ignore warnings
by the "large and powerful
anti-science mafia" of risks from dietary residues of carcinogenic
- In a January 2000 deposition,
Doll admitted to donations from the chemical industry to Green
College, Oxford, where he had
been the presidential "Warden" (64).
He also admitted that the largest "charitable" donation
came from Turner & Newall, U.K.'s leading asbestos multinational
recognition of all the work I had done for them."
In spite of this explicit record of pro-industry
bias, Doll has recently attempted to challenge charges which
have "impugned my scientific independence" (65).
Doll's long-standing domination of U.K. cancer
charities (66) and government policy is exemplified by a 1999 letter
stating that, based on Doll's 1981 report (11), "relatively little of the cancer
burden (5-10%) is attributed to occupational, environmental or consumer exposure
to specific chemicals" (67).
Faced with growing evidence of the scientific
untenability of his virtual dismissal of causes of cancer other
revelations of conflicts of interest, Doll has suddenly retracted
his long-standing dismissal of environmental causes of cancer.
As a member
of a recent IARC
scientific working group, convened to review evidence relating
tobacco smoking and cancer,
Doll finally admitted: "It does look as if it's
the cancers that are principally caused by hormones that are
not affected by smoking. Most of the other cancers
throughout the body are induced by exposure to chemicals, often
environmental ones" (68). This retraction, countless
cases of avoidable cancers and deaths late, has been ignored
by cancer establishments
Cancer Before It Starts: How to Win the War On Cancer
by Samuel S. Epstein, Ph.D. 2003
Cancer Prevention Coalition
University of Illinois at Chicago
School of Public Health
2121 W. Taylor St., MC 922
Chicago, IL 60612