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E-M:/ Sound Science?

July 2005, Vol 95, No. S1 | American Journal of Public Health S81-S91
© 2005 American Public Health Association
DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.044818
Roni A. Neff, ScM and Lynn R. Goldman, MD, MPH

Roni A. Neff is with the Department of Health Policy and Management and Lynn R. Goldman is with the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md.

Correspondence: Request for reprints should be sent to Lynn R. Goldman, MD, MPH, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe St., Room E6636, Baltimore, MD 21205 (e-mail: lgoldman@jhsph.edu ).

There is broad agreement that regulatory decisions should be based on evidence. But interested parties have used the "sound science" mantle to demand extended research, analysis, and review of evidence for the sole purpose of delaying health-protective regulation. This historical review shows how the forces behind the "sound science" reasoning leading to the Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc decision on science in the courtroom have operated in parallel in environmental regulation.

Like Daubert, certain "sound science" regulatory tools can be used to improve decision quality. However, these tools can also challenge the federal government’s ability to safeguard the public’s health and well-being. Most recently, political tampering with science provides the foundation for some policymakers to disregard science completely in the environmental regulatory process.


A red herring by any other name is still a red herring. No one embraces or calls for " sound science" more than  Congressman Camp, Rep. Moolenaar and Senator Stamas. As a matter of fact I don't think they can utter the words dioxin or Dow Chemical without calling for  "sound science" in the same sentence. In fact,  in Midland Michigan they wear pins calling for sound science.........which, of course, is Dow science approved by Dow scientists.

No surprise that political tampering continues to reach new heights in the ongoing saga of Dow's dioxin contamination of Michigan's largest watershed.

Michelle Hurd Riddick

Lone Tree Council