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Shooting the messenger: the vilification of Irving J. Selikoff

McCulloch, Jock and Tweedale, Geoffrey (2007) Shooting the messenger: the vilification of Irving J. Selikoff. ISSN 0020-7314

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Abstract

Dr. Irving J. Selikoff (1915-1992), a New York physician based at Mount Sinai Hospital, was the leading American medical expert on asbestos-related diseases between the 1960s and early 1990s. In a country that had been the world's greatest consumer of asbestos, he was also at the center of the key controversies connected with the mineral. In these controversies, Selikoff was consistently demonized as a media zealot who exaggerated the risks of asbestos on the back of bogus medical qualifications and flawed science. Since his death, the criticism has become even more vituperative and claims have persisted that he was malicious or a medical fraud. However, most of the attacks on Selikoff were inspired by the asbestos industry or its sympathizers, and for much of his career he was the victim of a sustained and orchestrated campaign to discredit him. The most serious criticisms usually more accurately describe his detractors than Selikoff himself.

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