At the Chicago Reader, Michael Miner explains how the celebrated new documentary Merchants of Doubt highlights the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer-nominated series “Playing with Fire”–collected in an Agate Digital ebook of the same name.
Callahan, Roe, and their colleague Michael Hawthorne (who’s not in the movie) published “Playing With Fire,” a 2012 series of articles exposing the flame-retardant industry. These articles made them finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and the short citation on the Pulitzer website inadequately describes what they accomplished: ” . . . for their exposure of manufacturers that imperil public health by continuing to use toxic fire retardants in household furniture and crib mattresses, triggering reform efforts at the state and national level.”
Merchants of Doubt makes several points: the Tribune reporters worked two years on their investigation; the so-called leading scientist in the field was a lying stooge for the retardant manufacturers; the supposed citizens lobby championing retardants in home furnishings and children’s clothing was a front group for the manufacturers; besides being unhealthy, the retardants didn’t work; and Big Tobacco benefited by directing blame away from the cigarettes that started fires at home to the environments that supposedly allowed those fires to spread.