Dr. Goodman, who holds a doctorate in toxicology from Johns Hopkins University, is one of the company’s most prominent scientists, helping to defend industries as varied as tobacco, plastics and fossil fuels against health concerns — a reflection of the widespread practice in which various industries hire experts who publicly support their position.
She helped develop expert testimony for Philip Morris in a class-action lawsuit that went to trial in 2015, portraying the tobacco giant’s best-selling Marlboro Lights cigarettes as being safer for smokers. In a decision for the plaintiffs, Judge Edward Leibensperger of Massachusetts Superior Court said Gradient’s analysis “was shown to be inconsistent and contrary to the consensus of the scientific community.”
At Gradient, Dr. Goodman also co-authored an article, sponsored by the now-defunct American Plastics Council, criticizing dozens of academic articles that had raised concerns over Bisphonal-A, or BPA, a chemical used to make hard plastics such as water and juice bottles. A body of research suggests that BPA and other bisphenols can act as endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormones in the body. The chemicals have been linked to reduced fertility, earlier puberty in boys and behavioral problems in children.
In congressional testimony, Dr. Goodman has argued against regulatory standards for mercury and air toxics, and has criticized studies linking air pollution and mortality, frequently identifying herself as an independent scientist, despite Gradient’s work for corporate clients. In articles funded by the American Petroleum Institute, she has also attacked research linking exposure to smog-causing ozone to deaths from respiratory diseases.
Frederick vom Saal, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Missouri, is among the scientists whose work Dr. Goodman has criticized. “There are over 1,000 publications on BPA, but she claimed none of them stand up to their standards,” he said. He said her argument is essentially, “‘You don’t need to worry about anything because there’s so little exposure,’” he said, adding that decades of research has shown that not to be true.
Gradient declined to comment.
Dr. Goodman’s presence in Multnomah surprised people at the county hearing. The county, which includes most of Portland, recently passed a resolution aimed at reducing the health effects of air pollution.
“We were all looking at each other going, ‘Who is that? Why is she here?’” said Melanie Plaut, a retired physician in Oregon who was attending to urge for greater scrutiny of gas stoves. “There were just so many points that needed to be refuted.”