Book Review

Science and the Law: How the Communication of Science Affects Policy Development in the Environment, Food, Heath, and Transport Sectors; Town W. G., Currano, J. N., Eds; ACS Symposium Series 1207; American Chemical Society: Washington, 2015. 199 p. + x, ISBN 9780841231078 Hardcover $150.

This book is the second in the series. The first book (reviewed by Pamela Scott) includes material presented at a symposium at the fall 2012 ACS meeting in Philadelphia (1); the current book is based on a second symposium held at the fall 2014 ACS meeting in San Francisco. Both remain timely, especially given the continuing political developments in these areas. Of the ten chapters, six are by authors in the United Kingdom.

In the first chapter, co-editor Bill Town outlines the topics to be covered in the book and describes how the scope is expanded beyond that of the first book, before recounting his extensive experience with these subjects. He also describes several developments on the ever-important topic of communicating science and scientific research to various audiences. Scientific advice has become increasingly important and is widely requested; simultaneously, it is more contested and challenged than ever. (For additional discussion of this topic see “The War on Science” (2).) A number of subjects have become “hot” topics: climate change (and Climate Gate), cybersecurity, poverty, pandemics, food technology, fracking, etc, and many federal organizations require scientific information to inform policy in many areas, including federal budget policy (often controversial), energy, climate change, and stem cell research. In addition, the general population assimilates scientific information and forms its own views, which often include misconceptions and sometimes outright hostility. The introductory chapter also discusses science communication channels, including science communication cycles and the role of social media.

In Chapter 2 (Impact of the Communication of Science on Government Policy – The Perspective from the United Kingdom), Neil Ravenhill discusses the history of the topic, from the Age of Enlightenment to the present, and highlights our increasing dependence on evidence and critical thinking (whether adopted or ignored). He presents three cases studies, the Cancer Drug Fund, Meningitis B vaccine, and illegal drug policy, and stresses the role of the informed public.

David Richardson describes informed policies for health care and nutrition in Chapter 3 (Consumer Communication of Nutrition Science and Impact on Public Health), another hot topic. He discusses WHO and EC policies, including three examples: (1) folic acid/folate for improved pregnancy nutrition, (2) calcium and vitamin D influence on bone health and osteoporosis, and the effect on the outcome of falling, and (3) benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on cardio health

Prevention of smoking in the United States forms the basis for Chapter 4 (The Role of Regulatory Science in reducing the Public Health Impact of Tobacco Use), written, surprisingly, by authors from British American Tobacco, U.K. The FDA established the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), which funds research on regulatory policies. The authors present risk continua of the various products (including e-cigarettes) and list harmful components of tobacco and tobacco smoke, including toxicity data. They also describe in vitro toxicity testing, clinical studies, and modeling.

Chapter 5 (FDA’s Communication of Nicotine Science) also discusses tobacco. The chief information source on this subject is the CTP; however, communication of relevant data and information is directed towards federal regulatory processors rather than the general public, especially on the FDA website. E-cigarettes and smokeless products are seldom discussed. The FDA uses other media to fill these gaps. The authors also discuss addiction vs. toxicity of nicotine and provide a risk continuum and harm reduction.

Chapter 6 (Communicating Controversial Science: The Case of Tobacco Harm Reduction and the Ethics of Blanket Censorship) is the third and final chapter of the book that addresses tobacco. The FDA has regulated tobacco since 2009 and has partnered with the NIH, which yields more funding for research. The authors present levels of hazard from the various components of tobacco and tobacco products and the risk/hazard continua for the various products. Tobacco companies are developing less hazardous products, but several journals ban publication of results from these companies, a situation that prompts the authors to discuss the ethics of censorship.

Indirect land use change, referring to deforestation and land use expansion, is is the subject of Chapter 7 (Science, Value, and the Political Framing of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC)). The controversial driving force of increasing crop prices complicates the issue. Arguments between stakeholders and scientists occur at all stages: advisory reports, rule-making documentation, and public comments. The end results are not straightforward.

Chapter 8 (The importance of Exposure Dose in communicating the Ecotoxicity of Engineered Nanomaterials) addresses policy formation regarding engineered nanomaterials. The authors use the case of the use of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide to illustrate the control of these materials used by consumers and in disposal, and they discuss the adequacy of the ecotoxicity literature to help formulate policy. Questions remain.

Chapter 9 (Risk Analysis Approaches for Establishing Maximum levels of Essential Nutrients) in Fortified Foods and Food (Dietary) Supplements) covers risk analysis for safe levels of essential nutrients in food. The authors determine the risks of too little or too much of these nutrients, their maximum tolerance and non-adverse effect levels (including RDAs), and the nutrient levels in conventional foods. The derived models can be used to protect both adults and children.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) is discussed in Chapter 10 (PEPFAR—a U.S. Government Program That Is Helping to keep Millions Alive Around the World). In the 11 years since its announcement, the program of distribution of medicines has been very successful, with 7.7 million people under treatment worldwide. The authors give a brief history of the program, describing the role of the FDA and their communications to manufacturers and others.

The book has an index, but it is very inadequate and has entries only for subjects beginning with E-G, I, N, and R-T. As a result, searching directly for “climate change” is not possible. That, together with the delayed delivery of books for review, indicate the inadequacies in what is left of the ACS Books division.

References

  1. Science and the Law: Analytical Data in Support of Regulation in Health, Food, and the Environment; Town W. G., Currano, J. N., Eds; ACS Symposium Series 1167; American Chemical Society: Washington, 2014.
  2. Otto, S. The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It; Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, 2016.

 

Robert E. (Bob) Buntrock
Orono, ME
Buntrock16@roadrunner.com