How Much Risk? A Guide to Understanding Environmental Health Hazards

How Much Risk? A Guide to Understanding Environmental Health Hazards

How Much Risk? A Guide to Understanding Environmental Health Hazards

How Much Risk? A Guide to Understanding Environmental Health Hazards

Synopsis

An excellent critical analysis and scientific assessment of the nature and actual level of risk leading environmental health hazards pose to the public. Issues such as radiation from nuclear testing, radon in the home, and the connection between electromagnetic fields and cancer, environmental factors and asthma, pesticides and breast cancer and leukemia clusters around nuclear plants are discussed and how scientists assess these risks is illuminated.

Excerpt

In March of 2001, Christine Todd Whitman, appointed as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency some months previously by the incoming President Bush, announced that the EPA was rescinding a decision made during the Clinton presidency to lower the acceptable level of a known carcinogen, arsenic, in drinking water. The present standard, 50 parts per billion, has been in force since 1942; the rescinded level would have been 10 parts per billion, the maximum level permitted in European countries. Ms Whitman justified the decision by stating that there was not a sufficient scientific basis for the 10 parts per billion standard. In her words, “When we make a decision on arsenic, it will be based on sound science and solid analysis.”

According to the New York Times, a factor in the decision was a claim by the mining industry, and by municipalities with high levels of arsenic in their drinking water, that reaching the 10 part per billion level would cost too much. Within the United States the problem appears most severe in New Mexico and other western states, but is even more severe in some other countries around the world. Whitman’s decision has been both harshly criticized and warmly defended.

We wrote this book to explain to the concerned reader how science evaluates the health hazards of environmental pollutants: what constitutes “sound science and solid analysis.” We use a “case-history” approach, describing in some depth a number of examples of the investigation of specific health hazards about which there has been controversy. They include radiation from radon in homes and from nearby nuclear facilities, toxic waste dumps, air pollution, pesticides, electromagnetic fields, and arsenic in drinking water; hazards blamed by some for causing can-

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