Thursday, June 21, 2007

When BREDL Makes Claims, Be Sure to Check the Data

Yesterday, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) unveiled a study that makes some startling claims about the community that hosts the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia:

The number of people dying from cancer in Burke County is on the rise, and one group says a nuclear plant may be to blame.

A new study released by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League shows the number of people dying of cancer in Burke County has shot up 25%, while the rest of country's cancer rate was on the decline.

"If I lived in this county I'd want to know why these numbers are increasing," said Louis Zeller with Blue Ridge.

[...]

But the most startling statistic is the change in infant mortality. In Burke County the number of infant deaths increased 70% compared to the other surrounding counties in the CSRA. But even the backers of the study admit waste from other plants could be contributing to the problem.

"It's like a crime being committed, but too many suspects to find out for certain what the source of the problem might be," said Zeller.
To read the reports, click here (PDF) and here (PDF). To be sure, the conclusions sound alarming, but if you take a closer look at those reports, you'll see that they're authored by Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project. Here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we've been tracking Mangano since March 2005 since his claims were the subject of a feature on CNN.

At that time, we reminded readers that in all, eight state departments of health have investigated Mangano's claims, and all eight states (Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Michigan) refused to validate them. Even better, here's what the New Jersey Commission on Radiation Protection had to say about Mangano's research:
The Commission is of the opinion that "Radioactive Strontium-90 in Baby Teeth of New Jersey Children and the Link with Cancer: A Special Report," is a flawed report, with substantial errors in methodology and invalid statistics. As a result, any information gathered through this project would not stand up to the scrutiny of the scientific community. There is also no evidence to support the allegation that the State of New Jersey has a problem with the release of Sr-90 into the environment from nuclear generating plants: more than 30 years of environmental monitoring data refute this.
Mangano's act goes something like this: Pop around the country making outrageous claims, and get out of town before anyone has a chance to double check his work.

Here's hoping the folks in Georgia don't buy into the scare mongering. For more from our archives on Mangano, click here. And for a look at our archives on BREDL, which has a similar track record when it comes to playing fast and loose with the data, click here.

3 comments:

Don Kosloff said...

A near term increase in cancer could not be attributable to the operation of Vogtle because Vogtle has been operating for many years. Also, there are 23 counties in Georgia that have higher cancer rates than Burke county over the most recent time period that provides reasonably accurate statistics. During the previous long term period, Burke County was #20. So Burke county has improved its standing among Georgia counties since Plant Vogtel started up.

http://www3.cancer.gov/atlasplus/charts.html

Anonymous said...

Or just say that the cancer deaths in Barrow County GA for All Cancers are not increasing, e.g.:

YEAR NO. RATE/100,000
1999 58 130.0
2000 77 166.9
2001 89 183.3
2002 72 140.6
2003 73 136.7
2004 73 128.8

Regards, Jim Muckerheide

News 12 said...

We will be following up on this story, and have added Georgia Power's rebuttal to the end of the original article.