Health-Hype Hypocrites on PCBs, Mercury, and Lead

Overhyped stories of danger from fish, underhyped stories of lead in candy -- but are the activists the real threat?

Fish consumption by pregnant women may aid late-stage fetal growth, a new study shows (see ). If the results of this one study are supported by further research, it is a scary example of the consequences of reckless use of the precautionary principle by fish-fear-mongers.

"Better to be safe than sorry" -- avoiding even the remotest, hypothetical threat -- say the anti-chemical activists, likely inspiring many women to reduce fish consumption during pregnancy, given all the recent hoopla over PCBs in salmon and mercury in tuna. Even if you are not convinced that trace levels of these chemicals are harmful, why take the risk, the prudent person might wonder. So now, women around the world are reducing fish consumption, a possible fetal growth booster.

Isn't it time we held the activists accountable?

A similar case of unintended activist fallout faces the people of California. That state certainly has its hands full. As leaders in application of the precautionary principle, California officials have to go around protecting consumers from all sorts of things that we don't really have much reason to believe are harmful. Warning labels on virtually everything are mandated by law in California, as Proposition 65. From warning labels on firewood to bans on life-saving brominated fire retardants, you would think Californians are very well protected by their government.

So when lead-contaminated candies from Mexico find their way into California, you'd think the state would be there to protect the children from what is indeed a real health threat. Think again.

Crisis manager Jonathan Bernstein (see: ) reports:

The Orange County Register recently broke a story revealing that more than 100 brands of candy sold in California, most of them from Mexico, have tested positive for dangerous levels of lead over the past decade, and that little has been done about it.

State officials claimed they didn't have the resources to handle the problems, didn't have jurisdiction over Mexican manufacturers, and then issued this pip of a statement:

"We have a lot more responsibilities than looking for lead in candy," said Jim Waddell, chief of the state Health Department's Food and Drug Branch.

Too busy putting labels on everything to attend to real health threats perhaps? So much for the precautionary principle and Proposition 65! What have those activists wrought?

Again: Isn't it time we held them accountable?

Jeff Stier is an associate director of the American Council on Science and Health and raised a similar question -- regarding chemical-fearing breast cancer activists' failure to laud statins -- in a prior article.