Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Perchlorate: The New Alar?

Today's LATimes story by enviro-sensationalist Marla Cone on perchlorate has all the hallmarks of the greens' earlier waltz with Alar. Alar, as you recall, was greenie-hyped as industrial doom, devastating the apple economy for a season before the hype popped and sanity settled in, much to the dismay of Meryl Streep and other conned celebrities.

Cone's story reports on "high" levels of perchlorate in mother's milk but:
  • The data, which comes from a Texas Tech study, is commented upon only by groups with a clear environmental agenda like the Environmental Working Group, whose Web site headlines today with an article on the story. Cone probably got the story from EWG, not Texas Tech. EWG's agenda is so propagandistic that petitions have been filed with the IRS, demanding that its nonprofit status be withdrawn. Among its sponsors is the Heinz Family Fund, and the Joyce Foundation, which also has had an IRS petition filed against its tax-free status for violating IRS code against propaganda. Cone shares none of this information with her readers.

  • While the Texas Tech study shows perchlorate levels are higher than set standards in certain areas, Cone makes no effort to put the risk involved with that finding into context. In the Alar case, a child would have to eat 20,000 apples a day to get cancer from Alar. That sort of context is needed here.

  • Cone quotes no alternative points of view in the article. Just as her colleague Elizabeth "So Green" Shogren does, Cone quotes only environmentalist activists and activist regulators. She's content with telling her readers half a story. There is always another side. With perchlorate, I found it within two Google-clicks, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Web site:

    Scientists concluded that the neonatal rat brain analysis in a key animal study was conducted in a manner that rendered the rat brain data unreliable for concluding that perchlorate adversely affects the development of the central nervous system.

    "It is the firm opinion of panel members that theses studies allow us to draw no conclusions with respect to the effects of perchlorate on rats," said Harold L. Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of California-Irvine and an expert in thyroid hormones who spoke for the scientific panel. "We recommend setting them aside and conducting new studies."

    A separate panel of independent scientists who examined recent animal behavior studies on perchlorate also recommended these studies not be used for estimating perchlorate’s effects on the developmental central nervous system. While noting the studies were carried out professionally and competently, the scientific experts offered seven specific criticisms of the studies' design.

    "These experiments are inadequate in demonstrating significant risks from exposure to perchlorate, and likewise they failed to demonstrate the absence of risks," said Sam Sanderson, Ph.D., a UNMC professor who facilitated the module and presented the expert panel's results. "The results are invalid and the conclusions of these studies should not be used in any way."

That's good information intelligent people need to make informed decisions -- and it's just the sort of information the environmental reporting staff at LAT systemically keeps from their readers.