Confidential Communications: Industry Science Tries to Bury "Silent Spring"

The document we are highlighting today is a letter from the Industrial Hygiene Foundation of America to Dr. Robert Kehoe at the University of Cincinnati. The letter is from Jan 29, 1964, and penned by Robert T.P. deTreville.

Both figures, Dr. deTreville and Dr. Kehoe, worked between occupational medicine and industry. deTreville was a managing director at the Industrial Hygiene Foundation of America; Kehoe was the chief medical advisor to the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, which distributed leaded gasoline products and also funded Kehoe’s research on the toxicity of leaded gasoline. Unsurprisingly, Kehoe was a staunch advocate for tetraethyl lead in gasoline.

In 1924, Kehoe was hired by Charles Kettering of GM Motors to investigate the effects of tetraethyl lead (leaded gasoline) on human health. In this letter, deTreville congratulated Kehoe on the newly opened Kettering Laboratory Program, and then asked for a favor. deTreville requested Kettering Lab's "advice and consultation" with a new project: the preparation of a new scientific review of the health effects of pesticides.


However, shockingly, one of the motivations behind compiling this review is to purposefully bury the work Rachel Carson did in her revolutionary book, Silent Spring.

The letter goes as far as to blatantly state,

"The idea is that it would be less likely that 'Silent Spring' would be as widely quoted if there were such a reference."

Here, the claim that the project's aim is to prepare a "definitive, objective, scientific review of the health effects of pesticides" is false. deTreville makes it abundantly clear that a large motivation behind this project would be to try and hide Carson's work from the world, fouling any chance of the review's scientific objectivity.

Once again, deTreville's statements shed light on the claimed neutrality of industry sponsored science as he proposes a project that starts with the bias of wanting to silence a contrasting voice, an absolute tragedy in science.