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

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…