ACSH Morning Dispatch: Terrorism, Sick Buildings, and Fast Food

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Soon, this daily dose of ACSH staffers' conversations will be e-mailed to donors each morning, available online to the public at the end of that week.

You can become a donor at or send a tax-deductible donation to:

American Council on Science and Health
1995 Broadway, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10023

For questions, please call Jeff Stier at 212-362-7044 x225 or e-mail Tara McTeague at McTeagueT[at]

-- Quote to Note: "To be honest, [fast food] is all we eat," Rey Merlan said during one recent lunch hour at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in southern Los Angeles.

-- This morning marks the sixth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and ACSH staffers paused to honor the memory of the victims in the attacks. In addition to always remembering the terrible attacks and the lives ended on that day, we can also remain prepared for the future. "Facts often mitigate fear," ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says. It is important to separate myths from realities when describing different chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and to distinguish between real and imagined risks.

-- Today's news that Los Angeles is looking to put limits on fast-food restaurants met a lot of skepticism around ACSH's breakfast table. Yes, people may gravitate to fast-food restaurants if they do not have any other options. But as ACSH's Jeff Stier said, people do have other options. For instance, he said, he bought a large bag of vegetables for 99 cents near his Manhattan home. Blaming poor eating habits on fast-food restaurants is too easy and distracts from the issue at hand: education about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

It directly relates to the concept of causation, Dr. Gil Ross added. People look at two separate facts: children in poor areas are obese and there are more fast-food restaurants in poor areas. So, the conclusion is that fast-food restaurants cause obesity -- but it's not that simple.

ACSH staffers also wonder how this proposal is going to work. How exactly does one define a fast-food restaurant? Does Subway get a free pass?

-- We would like to award Coreen A. Robbins from Redmond, WA an Honorary Seat at ACSH's Table. Robbins receives this honor because her letter to the editor in Business Week reflected the sound-science principles ACSH promotes.

In response to BW's "How to Heal a Sick Office" article, Robbins pointed out that several claims were misleading and promoted an unwarranted fear of nonexistent hazards. Plant-based cleaning compounds are not necessarily less toxic than those from non-plant sources, she said. "They are all chemicals, after all." Robbins, an occupational hygienist, emphasized that while employees working in a properly ventilated, clean, and well-lighted environment will be more productive, "the vast majority of typical offices are not 'sick' due to the presence of particleboard furniture and carpet glued to the floor."

You, too, can get a symbolic seat at ACSH's table by submitting your sound-science letters to the editor and/or op-eds.

Corrie Driebusch is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (,

See also: ACSH's A Citizen's Guide to Terrorism Preparedness and Response.