Industrial Disorders

Article excerpt

Industrial Disorders

Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Deceit and Denial is not cozy bedtime reading. Markowitz and Rosner reveal how plastics and lead manufacturers interfered with the protection of public health over the last century. Using evidence from corporate records, they document a history of concealment, dishonesty and manipulation. Many people are reluctant to attribute conscious acts of dishonesty and concealment to corporate actors. Markowitz and Rosner show that industry executives and spokespeople, while in possession of damning evidence, acted irresponsibly to prevent the protection of public health by public agencies.

The authors want to warn us against possible similar efforts by other actors to forestall other environmental protection efforts. And they have written a book that is both careful history and widely accessible reading.

In the current policy world, we have reduced access to information about environmental health risks. We are exposed to a wide variety of risks from new chemicals and life forms, from plastic by-products to genetically modified organisms. But our knowledge of these industrial products and their by-products is inadequate. Testing is often private and too narrowly focused. Information is often treated as proprietary. We seem willing to serve as guinea pigs for many strange new substances in the interests of industrial development.

One of the reasons that we need full disclosure and the use of the precautionary principle in policy-making is made clear in Deceit and Denial. We need to be more cautious in our use of corporate information because corporations have willingly sacrificed public and worker safety for profit in the past. …