The Environmental Working Group rolled out its latest anti-synthetic chemicals campaign today with a full page ad in the New York Times. The ad features the lugubrious face of breast cancer survivor/activist Andrea Martin with the ominous headline that she "contains 59 cancer-causing industrial chemicals." EWG has tested 9 people for the presence of 200 industrial chemicals and they found them. This campaign is designed to piggyback on a new Centers for Disease Control study billed as the the "most extensive assessment to date of Americans' exposure to environmental chemicals." The CDC report will be released this Friday and will cover 116 toxic substances.
The proper response to the EWG scare campaign should be a resounding, So What?!
EWG is peddling alarmism in the hoary old tradition of Rachel Carson. After 4 decades of failed alarums, environmental activists are still waiting for the long predicted man-made epidemic of cancer to materialize. In fact, if cancer due to smoking were excluded, cancer rates in the United States have fallen by 16% since 1950, according to University of California researcher Bruce Ames. The American Institute for Cancer Research concludes, "Exposure to all manufactured chemicals in air, water, soil and food is believed to cause less than 1% of all cancers."
The plain old boring fact is that the vast majority of cancers are the result of smoking, alcohol, dietary fat consumption, and sunburn. But that means there aren't any villains and without villains, who needs activists like EWG? And indeed, who does?