Skip to main content

CNN's Erin Burnett Falls for Erin Brockovich and the Tooth Fairy

Last night on CNN, Erin Burnett had Erin Brockovich on as a guest. Yes, that Erin Brockovich. It was a pretty typical segment, with Burnett chatting up Brockovich about her new book, "Hot Water," a thriller she co-authored with CJ Lyons. In the course of the interview, which you can watch by clicking here, Brockovich started throwing out all sorts of accusation concerning illnesses being caused by nuclear facilities including power plants.
What really caught my attention was when Brockovich mentioned the "Tooth Fairy Project," that inexhaustable fountain of junk science fronted by Joseph Mangano. Said Brockovich: "There was a facsinating study that was done called the 'Tooth Fairy,' where they were actually studying baby teeth. And they were finding 33% increase in disease just in and around these nuclear facilities."

Yes, we've seen studies like that before -- and we've managed to debunk them. What has me shaking my head is why journalists like Burnett refuse to do the work of delving into what real scientists have to say about the Tooth Fairy Project?

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. 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.
And here's what Scientific American had to say about one of Mangano's more recent papers concerning radiation and Fukushima:
[A] check reveals that the authors’ statistical claims are critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths.



Only by explicitly excluding data from January and February were Sherman and Mangano able to froth up their specious statistical scaremongering.

This is not to say that the radiation from Fukushima is not dangerous (it is), nor that we shouldn’t closely monitor its potential to spread (we should). But picking only the data that suits your analysis isn’t science—it’s politics. Beware those who would confuse the latter with the former.

We've taken on Mangano repeatedly over the years, and made sure to share that information with any journalist who was inquisitive enough to ask about it. So while we're not surprised that Brockovich -- who makes a living trolling for plaintiffs no matter what the science might say -- might try to leverage Mangano's nonsense, Burnett doesn't have the same sort of excuse.

The Tooth Fairy Project has been debunked by serious scientists all over the country, yet journalists -- and in Burnett's case it's clear we ought to use that term loosely these days -- fail to ask any tough questions about the quality of its science. Why no tough questions? Isn't that what she and her producers are paid to do? Or are they just in the business of helping Brockovich sell books?

UPDATE: We just got a tip that Brockovich will be on MSNBC at 4:00 p.m. EST. We'll be watching.

Comments

John said…
About 1:36, does she say the "...Perry Nuclear Facility as I've said in Semi Valley California..."

Did I hear that right?
Brian Mays said…
Ohio ... Simi Valley ... eh ... close enough. For a blonde, that's pretty good. At least she got the right continent. ;-)

The quality of CNN has been steadily deteriorating for a long time. Thus, I'm not surprised that they put an air-head like Brockovich on one of their programs.

What surprised me is the little skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. What's up with that?!
jimwg said…
Ever slam them hard on these malacious seeds of doubt and misinformation. I regret there's no nuclear energy Cronkite or Carl Saagn out there to refute these uncontested accusations. Your agenda is clear, CNN.

James Greenidge

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…