Chemical scaremongering

It’s time to dismantle the alarmism industry

Illustration on the faults of the NIEHS by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Reported by Steve Milloy in the Washington Times:

It’s great news the Trump administration is starting to dismantle the junk science life-support system for government overregulation. Budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and reforms of science advisory panels at the Department of Interior and EPA, stir hope the agencies’ longstanding reigns of terror via “science” may come to an end.

But let’s not stop at EPA and Interior. Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney could save taxpayers $690 million per year by eliminating the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), which is at least 20 years past its expiration date. At the very least, its Obama-appointed director, Linda Birnbaum, should be removed immediately.

NIEHS was formed in 1965 in the wake of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring.” Carson alleged chemicals in the environment caused cancer and other health effects. Though the book was innuendo-laden and evidence-free, in the absence of any serious existing scientific study of the controversy, arguably legitimate questions were raised.

These concerns led not only to government-funded research programs but better-safe-than-sorry-themed laws and regulations. By 1978, the Carter administration organized the National Toxicology Program (NTP) within NIEHS with the mission of evaluating chemicals and other agents of concern to public health.

The NIEHS-NTP’s initial focus was whether chemicals and other agents in the environment caused cancer. Without any existing scientific evidence to back up this notion, government scientists went about trying to invent some laboratory animal experiments worthy of “Saturday Night Live.”

Because exposing lab animals to typical levels of chemicals in the environment didn’t increase cancer rates, scientists tested the highest possible doses — just short of outright poisoning — on animals specially bred to develop cancer spontaneously. So an increased rate of cancer could be induced in special lab mice with the controversial apple tree pesticide Alar, for example, by dosing them with an amount equivalent to the Alar exposure from a hypothetical person drinking 19,000 quarts of apple juice per day.

Such absurdity aside, the results of the laboratory animal tests proved to be useless. By the late 1990s, a review reported that 85 percent of the chemicals tested by NIEHS were reported to have either had a cancer-causing or even an anti-cancer-causing effect on some tissue in some species of lab animal. The study authors concluded, “This suggests that most chemicals given at high enough doses will cause some perturbation in tumor rates.”

 

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