Glowing book review for ACSH & Scared to Death

Yesterday Forbes.com featured a side-by-side comparison of two recently published books dealing with chemical risks, in which Hoover Institution Fellow and ACSH friend Dr. Henry Miller discusses ACSH’s latest publication Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health. He then goes on to compare it to a contemporary philosophical work by Carl Cranor, who touts a precautionary approach to suspect (all) chemicals. Cranor’s work pays homage to the precautionary principle, which requires absolute proof of safety, without regard for the science-based assessments of actual risk.

Scared to Death argues that regulatory decisions should be dictated by science and the application of established risk assessment techniques rather than according to the sort of precautionary paralysis advocated by Cranor that would deprive the world of lifesaving drugs, disinfectants, pesticides and countless other products that enhance the quality (and length) of our lives. Putting it another way, there are risks inherent in not using new products or technologies, such as vaccines to prevent influenza, insecticides to control disease-carrying mosquitoes or bacteria to clean up oil spills.

Life expectancy in the industrialized countries is constantly increasing, cancer rates are down almost across the board and people are generally healthier. The imposition of more chemophobic, precautionary regulation would unnecessarily turn back the clock to a time when vast numbers of people died from preventable infections, crop yields were devastated by insects and our lives were altogether less convenient. Maybe that has something to do with why society rewards the inventor of a new food preservative, vaccine or pesticide more highly than a philosophy professor.