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Will former DOE chief nuclear weapons facility safety officer be OSHA's new boss? (5/26)

May 26, 2009
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You might want to go out and purchase a copy of Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (Oxford University Press, 2008), written by Dr. David Michaels, research professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Several sources tell ISHN that Dr. Michaels is very close to being named by the Obama administration as permanent assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

If true, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. Michaels would replace acting OSHA chief Jordan Barab. Barab will remain in the top leadership team at the agency as deputy assistant secretary for OSH.

Dr. Michaels, an epidemiologist, has been on the radar screen as a possible nominee for the top OSHA post since the beginning of this year. Nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. Michaels served as the Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health from 1998 through January 2001. In this position, he had primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of workers, the neighboring communities and the environment surrounding the nation's nuclear weapons facilities.

He was the chief architect of the historic initiative to compensate workers in the nuclear weapons complex who developed cancer or lung disease as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium and other hazards. Since its enactment in 2000, The “Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program” has provided more than $4.5 billion in benefits to sick workers and their families. He also oversaw promulgation of two major public rules: Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention (10 CFR 850) and Nuclear Safety Management (10 CFR 830).

In his book, Doubt is Their Product, Dr. Michaels reports on what he calls “corporate efforts to manufacture uncertainty about asbestos, lead, vinyl chloride, diacetyl, and a host of other chemicals,” according to an article he wrote for the magazine Hazards in 2008.

In that article, Dr. Michaels wrote, “The mission of health and safety activists, as well as public health and environmental agencies, is to reduce hazards before people get sick and the environment is irreparably damaged. We don’t need certainty to act. It is time to return to first principles: use the best science available, but do not demand certainty where it does not exist.”

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