- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Your article “Senators ponder vetting czar Browner” (Plugged in, Tuesday) on Carol M. Browner’s appointment to coordinate energy and environmental policy for the new administration fails to note a significant achievement of the Environmental Protection Agency under her direction - the destruction of statistical epidemiology as a rigorous science.

One of the great public-health successes in the mid-20th century was the development of compelling scientific proof that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer even though there was no observed mechanism for explaining how. Sir Austin Bradford Hill and other researchers accomplished this difficult task by establishing rigorous scientific principles that must be met before proof of causation can be asserted using statistical analysis alone.

Under Mrs. Browner, the EPA abandoned these principles in its study of secondhand smoke. Many researchers have adopted the EPA’s abysmal standards, resulting in studies with trivial results announced as important, such as that secondhand smoke causes tooth decay in children.

In her new position, will Mrs. Browner insist on debasing scientific rigor to accomplish her political ends as she did when she was administrator of the EPA?

KENNETH A. HAAPALA

Fairfax

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