- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

Environmental extremists are setting the stage for personal injury lawyers to clean up and not toxic waste sites, either. The good news is that the Bush administration has a chance to head them off at the pass if only it wasn't asleep at the switch.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just issued its "Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals."CDC researchers measured the trace levels of 116 substances such as lead, mercury, dioxins, pesticide and other industrial chemicals in a survey of about 2,500 people.
Since the report only addressed exposure to environmental chemicals and did not link any of the chemicals with health effects, the report drew only back-page articles in newspapers.
But don't expect the eco-fearmongers and trial lawyers to leave it there.
Virtually every major environmental activist group has banded together in something called the Collaborative on Health and the Environment.
CHE's junk science-fueled claim is that environmental chemicals cause various diseases everything from birth defects to cancers to infertility and Parkinson's disease in 100 million Americans and that the economic toll of these diseases exceeds $325 billion yearly in health care and lost productivity.
Those lips you hear smacking belong to trial lawyers who are looking ahead to the pain and suffering awards on top of compensatory damages. But we're getting ahead of the story.
Keying off the release of the CDC report, CHE (pronounced "Chay" as in Che Guevera) has kicked off with full-page newspaper ads a new campaign of scaremongering about environmental chemicals.
What's more cynical about this latest scare is that the public faces of the campaign aren't the environmental groups.
Instead, the shameless media campaign is being fought behind disease victim groups such as the African-American Breast Cancer Group, Endometriosis Association, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and Parkinson's Association of Minnesota, to name a few.
Coordinating CHE's campaign is the notorious public-relations firm Fenton Communications propaganda experts who have coordinated numerous previous health scares including Alar and apples, and silicone breast implants. (Fenton also flacked for Nicaragua's Marxist Sandinistas, lest you think the Che Guevera reference was gratuitous.)
The Fenton connection is where the trial lawyers enter. Trial lawyers signed Fenton to a multimillion-dollar contract in the 1990s to promote the silicone breast implant controversy from which the trial lawyers are now set to reap a multibillion-dollar settlement.
Trial lawyers no doubt will use the new CDC report to help in preparing forthcoming class action lawsuits.
With Fenton's pre-litigation publicity barrages about environmental chemicals being to blame for virtually every imaginable disease, the only challenge for the trial lawyers will be to match pitiable plaintiffs with sympathetic juries.
Based on it breast-implant efforts including issuing a phony pretrial press release about a silicone breast implant study Fenton well knows how to play in the shallow end of the jury pool.
As dire as the outlook seems, all may not be lost quite yet. But the Bush administration will need to sweep away eco-activist moles in key positions in the bureaucracy and their programs installed by the Clinton administration. One of the key CDC scientists, Richard Jackson, is well-known as an anti-chemical activist-researcher and one of Fenton's "go to" guys.
The CDC human exposure program was commenced during the Clinton administration with no possibility of producing information of benefit to anyone but trial lawyers.
Anyone who knows anything about environmental chemicals knows everyone is exposed to a large variety of environmental chemicals at trace levels. But there's no need to worry since the exposures are so low and, as the basic tenet of toxicology goes, "the dose makes the poison."
It is well known, however, that many personal injury lawyers have little use for science and facts. The term "junk science" was coined with them in mind.
In addition to alleging health effects from these trace exposures, the trial lawyers may also float the trial balloon of "chemical trespass" that is, the notion that someone's rights have been violated simply because a trace level of a chemical from a nearby industrial facility is detected in their blood.
Another Clinton-era program will even help trial lawyers identify plaintiffs.
The National Cancer Institute operates a "cancer-mapping" program in which cancer rates are mapped geographically. The ostensible purpose of NCI's Atlas of Cancer Mortality is to identify possible cancer risk factors from occupational and environmental exposures.
From a scientific standpoint, it's a pretty silly effort given what we already know about the complexity of cancer development and the lack of connection with the vast majority of chemical exposures.
But for a trial lawyer, cancer-mapping is simply letting the federal government do the ambulance chasing for you.
The Environmental Protection Agency has its own Clinton-era program called the Office of Children's Health Protection that operates on the bogus premise that children are especially vulnerable to environmental chemicals.
But as the American Council on Science and Health exposes in its new book, "Are Children More Vulnerable to Environmental Chemicals," such efforts are just more of the "disturbing pattern in which activists with a non-science agenda manipulate the public's legitimate and appropriate concern for children's health in an effort to promote legislation, litigation, and regulation."
Fortunately, the human exposure, cancer mapping and child protection programs are still in their infancy. The tort-reform-minded Bush administration could go a long way toward tort-prevention by shutting down these no-goodnik programs before it's too late.

Steven Milloy is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of "JunkScience Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams" (Cato, 2001).


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