Toxicologists endorsing Dourson’s nomination are birds of a feather

When the Trump Administration announced its intention to nominate Michael Dourson to head the office at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charged with implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA issued a news release titled “Widespread Praise for Dr. Michael Dourson.”  The release cited four toxicologists:  Samuel M. Cohen, Jay I. Goodman, Gio Batta Gori and Kendall B. Wallace.

Far from representing a “widespread” set of endorsers, it turns out these four and Dourson constitute an exceedingly close-knit group.  

My last post focused on Dourson’s incredibly high rate of publishing his papers in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology that is known for its close ties to the tobacco and chemical industries.  It so happens that this journal is also a key thread connecting Dourson to at least three of his endorsers:

  • Dourson and Cohen both serve on the journal’s editorial board;
  • Goodman is an associate editor of the journal; and
  • Gori is its editor-in-chief.

What else can be said about these toxicologists who are endorsing Dourson?

Dr. Gori has a decades-long history of paid work for the tobacco industry.  For details, see these sources:

Drs. Cohen, Goodman and Wallace, like Dourson, have for many years been paid consultants to a large range of companies and trade associations.  For example:

  • Based on a PubMed search, Cohen has co-authored papers published over just the past six years that were funded by the Arsenic Science Task Force and the Organic Arsenic Products Task Force, the American Chemistry Council, Sumitomo Chemical Company, a Permethrin Data Group operating under the auspices of the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, the International Organization of Flavor Industries, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, and Boehringer Ingelheim.
  • Goodman has received grant money over many years from RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, and has also done paid work for the American Chemistry Council and Pharmacia. A PubMed search found recent papers he co-authored funded by Syngenta Crop Protection, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, The Dow Chemical Company, and the American Chemistry Council.
  • Wallace has done extensive work on diacetyl (the artificial popcorn butter flavoring linked to severe lung damage in workers) paid for by ConAgra. This included a paper, “Safe exposure level for diacetyl” (later retracted).  Based on a PubMed search, he has done work on perfluorinated substances over a number of years for 3M Company.

All four of the toxicologists endorsing Dourson have also worked together.  They are co-authors on two highly controversial 2016 papers that attack the role of science linking chemical exposures and human health effects in risk assessment and regulation, and the identification and regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  See here and here.  The latter paper is published in … you guessed it, the industry’s go-to journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.

Like I said, it’s a very close-knit group of heavily conflicted scientists that are providing that “widespread praise” for Dourson’s nomination.

As I noted earlier about Dourson, these industry consultants have every right to make their living however they choose.  And the tobacco and chemical industries have every right to hire whomever they want.  But Dourson’s nomination is for a position that is supposed to serve the public’s interest, not those of the chemical industry.  It simply must be asked:  Who really stands to benefit if he’s confirmed?  The endorsements of Dourson by this group of wholly like-minded individuals who have the same deep conflicts as Dourson himself shouldn’t count for much.


By Richard Denison

Richard Denison, a Lead Senior Scientist.

[My colleagues Dr. Jennifer McPartland, Lindsay McCormick, Ryan O’Connell, and Dr. Maricel Maffini assisted in the research described in this post.]

[Use this link to see all of our posts on Dourson.]

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