School: Milken Institute School of Public Health
Department: Environmental and Occupational Health
David Michaels PhD, MPH is an epidemiologist and professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health. He served as Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 2009-2017, and served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health 1998-2001. He joined the faculty at GW in 2001.
Dr. Michaels is a leader in efforts to protect the integrity of the science underpinning public health and environmental protections. His most recent book on the subject The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception (Oxford University Press, 2020) was called “a tour de force” by the reviewer in Science Magazine and “a brave and important book,” by the reviewer in Nature. He is also the author of Doubt is Their Product, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2008 and is scheduled to be reissued by the publisher in 2023. The reviewer in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Science) wrote the book is “a powerful argument for the need to reinforce our ethical responsibilities to protect human and environmental health even when it requires regulation and increased costs.” The reviewer in the journal Nature called the book “a powerful, thorough indictment of the way big business has ignored, suppressed or distorted vital scientific evidence to the detriment of the public’s health.
In addition to articles in Science, JAMA, the International Journal of Epidemiology, the American Journal of Public Health, and numerous other journals. Dr. Michaels was guest editor of a special issue on Scientific Evidence and Public Policy in the American Journal of Public Health, two issues of Law and Contemporary Problems: Sequestered Science: The Consequences of Undisclosed Knowledge and Conventions in Science and Law, and a mini-monograph entitled Science for Regulation and Litigationpublished in Environmental Health Perspectives. From 2019 through 2022, Dr. Michaels served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Toxicology Program.
Nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate, Dr. Michaels served as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA from 2009 - January 2017, and was the longest serving administrator in OSHA's history. Under his leadership, OSHA strengthened exposure standards for silica and beryllium, and issued new rules on safety, injury and illness record-keeping and reporting, and hazard communications. He launched OSHA’s Temporary Workers Initiative; greatly increased the agency’s activities protecting healthcare workers; expanded OSHA's activities to protect whistleblowers under Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and 19 other financial, environmental, transportation, and public health laws; and issued OSHA's first compliance guide and recommended practices for employers for preventing and addressing workplace retaliation.
Since leaving OSHA and returning to GWU, much of Dr. Michaels' work has centered on the relationship between safety and health management systems, operational excellence and sustainability. He has lectured extensively on the topic and, during his work at OSHA, directed the agency's first activities on sustainability in environment, social and governance (ESG).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Michaels focused much of his work on improving the protection of workers exposed to SARS-CoV-2. He served on two National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s expert panels: one that developed a Framework for Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus and a second that examined Respiratory Protection for the Public and Workers Without Respiratory Protection Programs at their Workplaces. He was a member of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board and the Lancet COVID-19 Commission’s Task Force on Safe Work, Safe School, and Safe Travel. Dr. Michaels is also an author of Getting to and Sustaining the Next Normal: A Roadmap for Living with COVID.
Earlier in his career, he was nominated by President Bill Clinton and unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health. Serving in the position 1998-2001, he had primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of workers, the neighboring communities and the environment surrounding the nation's nuclear weapons facilities. Dr. Michaels was the chief architect of the historic initiative to compensate workers in the nuclear weapons complex who developed cancer or other diseases following exposure to radiation, beryllium and other hazards. Since its enactment in 2000, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA) has provided more than $23 billion in benefits to sick workers and their families. He also oversaw promulgation of two major public rules: Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention and Nuclear Safety Management.
Throughout his career, Dr. Michaels has focused on the health of disadvantaged communities and the impact of infectious diseases on underserved populations. He founded and directed the Epidemiology Unit of the Montefiore-Rikers Island Health Service, the first such unit in a jail in the United States, conducting studies on tuberculosis, sexually-transmitted diseases, drug abuse, mental health, homelessness and HIV. In the early 1990s, Dr. Michaels developed a widely-cited mathematical model estimating the number of children and adolescents orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Michaels received the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award for his work on behalf of nuclear weapons workers and for his advocacy for scientific integrity. He is also the recipient of the American Public Health Association's David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health, the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award given by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists' William D. Wagner Award. In 2021, Dr. Michaels received the George Washington University School of Public Health's Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award and the Axelrod Prize in Public Health given by the University at Albany School of Public Health.
Dr. Michaels is a graduate of the City College of New York and holds an MPH (Master of Public Health) and PhD from Columbia University.
Personal website: drdavidmichaels.com
Environmental and Occupational Health
Environmental Health Policy
Federal and State Legislation, Laws and Policies
Global Environmental Health
Risk Assessment, Management and Communication
Social Determinants of Health
- Michaels D, Emanuel EJ, Bright RA. A National Strategy for COVID-19: Testing, Surveillance, and Mitigation Strategies. JAMA. 2022 Jan 18;327(3):213-214.
- Michaels D, Barab J. OSHA at 50: Protecting Workers in a Changing Economy. Amer J Public Health 2020;110(5):631-635, 2020
- Michaels D, Wagner GR. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Worker Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA. 2020;324(14):1389-1390, 2020.
- Michaels, D. Reimagining Our System for Public Health Protection. Amer J Public Health 109(7):975-976. 2019.
- Gandhi TK, Kaplan GS, Leape L, et al. Transforming Concepts in Patient Safety: A Progress Report. BMJ Quality & Safety. Published Online First: July 17, 2018 DOI:10.1136/bmjqs-2017-007756.
- Michaels, D. Seven Ways to Improve Operations without Sacrificing Worker Safety. Harvard Business Review. March 21, 2018
- Michaels D, Burke T. The Dishonest HONEST Act. Science 356:989 2017
- Michaels D, Wagner GR. Work, Health, and Well-Being. In Environmental Health: From Global to Local. (3rd Edition). Frumkin H, ed. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass, 2016.
- Michaels D, Howard J. Review of the OSHA-NIOSH Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Protecting the Health and Safety of Cleanup Workers. PLOS Currents Disasters. 2012 July 18.
- Michaels D. OSHA Does Not Kill Jobs: It Helps Prevent Jobs from Killing Workers. Amer J Ind Med 55:961-963, 2012.
- Michaels D. Addressing Conflict in Strategic Literature Reviews: Disclosure is Not Enough. J Epidemiol Comm Health. 63:599-600, 2009.
- Michaels D, Monforton C. Beryllium’s Public Relations Problem. Protecting Workers When There Is No Safe Exposure Level. Public Health Reports 123:79-88, 2008.
- Michaels D. Doubt is Their Product. How Industry’s War on Science Threatens Your Health. New York. Oxford University Press 2008.
- Michaels D, Monforton C. How Litigation Shapes the Scientific Literature: Asbestos and Disease Among Automobile Mechanics. J Law & Policy 5(3):1137-1169, 2007.
- Welch LS, Haile E, Dement J, Michaels D. Change in Prevalence of Asbestos-Related Disease Among Sheet Metal Workers 1986 to 2004. Chest. 131(3):863-869, 2007.
- Michaels D, Monforton C, Lurie P. Lung Cancer Mortality in the German Chromate Industry, 1958 to 1998. J Occup Environ Med. 48:995-7, 2006.
- Michaels D, Monforton C. The Beryllium Occupational Exposure Limit: Historical Origin and Current Inadequacy. J Occup Environ Med. 48:998-1001, 2006.
- Michaels D. Sarbanes-Oxley for Science. Law & Contemp Problems 69(3):1-19, 2006.
- Michaels D. Manufactured Uncertainty: Protecting Public Health in the Age of Contested Science and Product Defense. Ann NY Acad Sci. 1076:149-62, 2006.
- Michaels D. Mercenary Epidemiology – Data Reanalysis and Reinterpretation for Sponsors with Financial Interest in the Outcome. Ann Epidemiol 16:583-5, 2006.
- Neutra RR, Cohen A, Fletcher T, Michaels D, Richter ED, Soskolne CL. Toward Guidelines for the Ethical Reanalysis and Reinterpretation of Another’s Research. Epidemiology. 17:335-8, 2006.
- Michaels D, Monforton C. Lurie P. Selected Science: An Industry Campaign to Undermine an OSHA Hexavalent Chromium Standard. Environmental Health 5:5, 2006.
- Michaels D. Doubt is their Product. Scientific American 292:74-80, June 2005.
- Michaels D, Monforton C. Manufacturing Uncertainty. Contested Science and the Protection of the Public’s Health and Environment. Amer J Public Health 95.Suppl1:S39-48, 2005.
- Michaels D, Monforton C. Scientific Evidence in the Regulatory System: Manufacturing Uncertainty and the Demise of the Formal Regulatory System. J Law Policy 13(1): 17-41, 2005.
- Michaels D. Scientific Evidence and Public Policy. (editorial) Amer J Public Health 95:Suppl1.S5, 2005.
- Wagner W, Michaels D. Equal Treatment for Regulatory Science. Extending the Controls Governing the Quality of Public Research to Private Research. Amer J Law Med 30:119-154, 2004.
- Michaels D, Wagner W. Disclosure in Regulatory Science. Science 302:2073, 2003.
- Michaels D. Environmental Health Science and the Legacy of Popular Literature. Environ Health Perspectives 111:14-5, 2003.
- Michaels D, Bingham E, Boden L, et al. Advice without Dissent. Science 298:703, 2002.
- Michaels D. Fraud in the Workers’ Compensation System. Origin and Magnitude. Occupational Medicine State of the Art Reviews 13:439-442, 1998.
- Michaels D. When Science Isn't Enough. Wilhelm Hueper, Robert A.M. Case and the Limits of Scientific Evidence in Preventing Occupational Bladder Cancer. Int J Occup Environ Health 1:278-288, 1995.
- Welch LS, Michaels D, Zoloth SR. The National Sheet Metal Worker Asbestos Disease Screening Program. Radiologic Findings. Amer J Ind Med 25:635-648. 1994.
- Michaels D, Levine C. Estimates of the Number of Motherless Youth Orphaned by AIDS in the United States. JAMA 268:3456-3461, 1992.
- Michaels D, Zoloth S, Bernstein N, Kass D, Schrier K. Workshops Are Not Enough. Making Right-To-Know Training Lead to Workplace Change. Amer J Ind Med 22:637-649, 1992.
- Michaels D, Zoloth S, Alcabes A, Braslow C, Safyer S. Homelessness and Indicators of Mental Illness among Inmates in New York City's Correctional System. Hospital and Community Psychiatry 43:150-155, 1992.
- Michaels D, Zoloth S, Stern FB. Does Low-Level Lead Exposure Increase Risk of Death? A Mortality Study of Newspaper Printers. Int J Epidem 20:978-983, 1991.
- Michaels D, Zoloth S. Mortality among Urban Bus Drivers. Int J Epidem 20:399-404, 1991.
- Shenson D, Dubler N, Michaels D. Jails and Prisons. The New Asylums? Amer J Pub Health 80:655-656, 1990.
- Alcabes P, Vossenas P, Cohen R, Braslow C, Michaels D, Zoloth S. Compliance with Isoniazid Prophylaxis in Jail. Amer Rev Resp Dis 140:1194-1197, 1989.
- Michaels D. Waiting for the Body Count. Corporate Decision Making and Bladder Cancer in the U.S. Dye Industry. Med Anthro Q 2:215 232, 1988.
- Michaels D, Zoloth S. Asbestos Disease in Sheet Metal Workers. Proportional Mortality Update. Amer J Ind Med 13:731 734, 1988.
- Michaels D, Zoloth S, Lacher M, Holstein E, Lilis R, Drucker E. Asbestos Disease in Sheet Metal Workers II. Radiologic Signs of Asbestosis among Active Workers. Amer J Ind Med 12:595 603, 1987.
- Zoloth S, Michaels D, Lacher M, Nagin D, Drucker E. Asbestos Disease Screening by Non Specialists. The Results of an Evaluation. Amer J Pub Health 76:1392 1395, 1986.
- Zoloth SR, Michaels DM, Villalbi JR, Lacher M. Patterns of Mortality among Commercial Pressmen. J Nat Cancer Inst 76:1047 1051, 1986.
- Zoloth S, Michaels D. Asbestos Disease in Sheet Metal Workers. The Results of a Proportional Mortality Analysis. Amer J Ind Med 7:315 321, 1985.
- Michaels D, Barrera C, Gacharna MG. Economic Development and Occupational Health in Latin America. New Directions for Public Health in Less Developed Countries. Amer J Pub Health 75:536 542, 1985.
- Michaels D. Occupational Cancer in the Black Population. The Health Effects of Job Discrimination. J Nat Med Ass 75:1014 1018, 1983.