Following the unexplained death of a gardener at a millionaire’s estate in Hampshire, England, a coroner has been told that it is more likely than not that brushing against the poisonous common garden plant aconitum, known variously as wolfsbane or monkshood, must have caused the man’s decease. [Independent]
Maggie Bloom, who is representing the family, said in the pre-inquest hearing yesterday that the initial blood sample had been destroyed – despite being against hospital policy – and that later samples that were retained could be useless as the poison leaves the body within a day.
The Niagara Falls, N.Y., site of a famous toxic-homes evacuation during the Carter Administration is once again the scene of a claimed disease cluster involving an assortment of maladies. Lawyers say, perhaps not unhopefully, that as many as 1,100 claims may follow the six already filed.
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, while declining to address the lawsuits, called the area “the most sampled piece of property on the planet.”
“The canal has not leaked,” spokesman Mike Basile said. “The monitoring and containment system is as effective today” as when first installed.
[Buffalo News, AP] For some revisionist history on the causes of the 1970s fiasco, see Eric Zuesse’s classic 1981 Reason article (local officials instigated residential development of land they had been warned was unsuitable for such use) and Ronald Bailey’s 2010 update on the disease issue (“Love Canal residents are not especially prone to early mortality, cancer, or birth defects.”)
The lung disorder bronchiolitis obliterans has been diagnosed in food processing workers who regularly breathed in the flavoring chemical diacetyl, but this was a claim of consumer, not occupational, exposure; Wayne Watson’s physician testified that he suffered lung damage after years of regularly consuming microwave popcorn. The jury found the Kroger supermarket chain as well as the popcorn manufacturer liable for not warning of the potential problem. “An attorney for the defendants had told jurors that Watson’s health problems were from his years of using dangerous chemicals as a carpet cleaner.” [Reuters]
Reader Dave Westheimer writes, regarding a news item that we briefly noted earlier:
Guess who’s coming to the suburb where I live? Erin Brockovich. She’s here and in the news.
Of course she’s not hearing “Fridley’s concerns” — she’s hearing the concerns of novices who’ve never heard of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy.
FWIW, “one of the worst Superfund sites in the country” refers to the old FMC plant in the southwest corner of the city by the Mississippi, well away from the closest residential neighborhood and more likely to affect Minneapolis than Fridley, if it affected anything at all. Fridley’s biggest industry is Medtronic’s headquarters. It’s a typical postwar residential suburb, mostly built in the 50s and 60s.
The neighborhood newspaper ran what I thought was a fawning article about her appearance here, written by an intern, along with a separate article about how the intern who wrote the article was so excited to meet her. So much for objectivity.
As the city’s water report (PDF) says, Fridley has never been in violation of the cancer causing agents standards in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour myself another tall glass of city water.
A local woman says wi-fi emanations from new “smart” parking meters in Santa Monica, Calif., have caused her various health injuries including tightness in her neck and an ear infection that took antibiotics to heal. She wants $1.7 billion: “I know it seems a little big,” [Denise] Barton said, “but they can’t do things that affect people’s health without their consent. I think that’s wrong.” [Santa Monica Daily Press, LAist]
Susan Dominus explores an outbreak of tics and other neurological symptoms among teenage girls in a town near Rochester, as hyped on outlets like “Today” and CNN. Roving Tort-Finder Erin Brockovich, who parachuted into the town to blame possible chemical spills, does not come off well either: “Things only go wrong,’ [King's College London epidemiologist Simon] Wessely wrote in 1995, ‘when the nature of an outbreak is not recognized, and a fruitless and expensive search for toxins, fumes and gases begins.’” [NY Times Magazine]
“In non-Western countries, demons and witchcraft are still sometimes blamed for outbreaks of fainting and fits [PDF]. Pollution, poisoning, chemical weapons, and other environmental concerns are dominant in the West (a fact that makes Brockovich something of a mass hysteria machine). Some bloggers are now claiming that the upstate New York girls fell ill because of the HPV vaccine or fracking.” [Ruth Graham, Slate]
But that hasn’t stood in the way of a push to sign up clients for law firms in the vicinity of the Frederick, Md. armed forces base. [WJZ, Army Times]
Only stony-hearted Scrooges could oppose it, right? Earlier here, here, etc. More: PoL; Senate passes modified bill.
After alarmist coverage about how the water supply of rural Hinkley, Calif. is laced with carcinogenic chromium 6, it may have surprised some L.A. Times readers to learn that the town’s cancer rate is actually a bit below average. One interviewed local family blames the pollution for a variety of ills ranging from stroke to cognitive deficits to miscarriage to tumors in a pet dog. When the movie “Erin Brockovich” came out, it was pointed out that workers at the utility plant where the contamination originated had a life expectancy exceeding the California average.
P.S. I see that Tim Cavanaugh of Reason is on the case too.
The National Review on a dubious federal compensation bill for Ground Zero emergency responders. More: PoL.