Friday, May 2, 2008

1. HYBRIPHOBIA: REMEMBER WHEN POWER LINES CAUSED CANCER?

EMF stopped causing cancer in 1997, but no one bothered to tell Jim Motavalli, who wrote an Automobile column in the Sunday New York Times about the risks of EMF in hybrids. According to Motavalli the National Cancer Institute studied the cancer risks associated with electromagnetic fields. And so it did - but it couldn't find any. You might think Motavalli would at least check the Archives of the New York Times. On July 3, 1997, the day the massive four-year NCI study of power lines and cancer appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Gina Kolata reported in the Times that the study was unambiguous and found no health effects associated with electromagnetic fields. An editorial in the same issue of the Journal put it in perspective: "Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into studies that never had much promise of finding a way to prevent the tragedy of cancer in children. It is time to stop wasting our research resources." It all began in 1979 when Nancy Wertheimer, an unemployed epidemiologist, and her friend Ed Leeper, drove around Denver looking for common environmental factors in the homes of childhood victims of leukemia. It practically jumped out at them - every home had electricity. Their study was so flawed it would have been laughed off but for Paul Brodeur, a scientifically-ignorant writer for The New Yorker. He wrote a series of terrifying articles about power lines and cancer that were collected in a 1989 book, Currents of Death.

2. FOOD PANIC: NOT ENOUGH FOOD, OR TOO MANY MOUTHS?

President Bush has asked Congress for an additional $770M in emergency food assistance for poor countries. The only complaint from Congress was that it won't be available until the new fiscal year in October. But these countries are poor because they are overpopulated, undereducated, and women have no control over reproduction. Food won't solve the problem unless it's linked to women's rights including easy access to the pill and education in its use.

3. GINA: THE GENETIC INFORMATION NONDISCRIMINATION ACT.

It passed Congress and Bush says he will sign it. That's good news; it's tough enough getting stuck with risky genes, without being denied insurance or a job because of your genome. The growth of genetic tests makes passage of the bill urgent, but it's Louise Slaughter (D-NY) who almost alone pushed the bill for 13 years. Daughter of a Kentucky coal miner, she earned degrees in microbiology and public health from the University of Kentucky.

4. CLIMATE: IT'S WARMING EXCEPT RIGHT NOW IT'S COOLING.

There is a lot happening on this complicated planet besides greenhouse warming, so it's not too surprising that things added up to give us a little cooling. And give the warming deniers a rare - and temporary - victory. As we understand it, vacillating ocean floes spell a cooling trend up until about 2015, and then we can get back to warming. Oh sure, say the warming deniers.

Bob Park can be reached via email at whatsnew@bobpark.org
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the University, but they should be.