The Week That Was
October 26, 2002

1. THE ANTARCTIC OZONE HOLE (AOH), never predicted and discovered only by serendipity, has been hyped up and down. Now its temporary shrinkage is cited as proof that the Montreal Protocol (to ban CFCs) is working and should encourage adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. We reply to a pollyannish editorial in the Chicago Tribune.









2. World Council of Churches condemns most forms of energy

At a press conference in Bali on May 29, 2002, a team from the WCC and related groups laid out their energy program for the world. Major points:

**A global moratorium on exploration for new oil and coal deposits

**"Phasing out nuclear energy plants everywhere in the world"

**Slow the building of hydroelectric dams

Their plan covers over 90 percent of the energy sources available today. In place of these proven sources, the WCC's only recommendation for new energy development was "sustainable renewables" such as solar and wind power.

Ref: Faith and Freedom (Summer 2002 issue), published by Institute on Religion and Democracy <>

SEPP Comment: Sounds like a plan cooked up by BP and Shell


3. Backyard Trash-Burning soon to be Major Source of Dioxin Emissions

A new publication by the Chlorine Chemistry Council, Backyard Trash Burning: The Wrong Answer, warns of the increasingly significant contribution of uncontrolled backyard trash-burning to pollutant levels. At a time when successful cooperation between industry, government and environmental organizations has resulted in major declines in overall industrial and municipal dioxin emissions (down by 92 percent since 1987), the EPA projects backyard trash-burning will be a major source of dioxins by 2004.

Backyard trash-burning is common in rural areas, especially where trash removal service is not provided by the local government or is prohibitively expensive because of a sparsely located population. As a result, many families dispose of their household waste by burning it outdoors, either in metal receptacles or directly on the ground. While open burning is seen by some as an inexpensive, convenient solution for dealing with household trash, it is also highly polluting.

A modern municipal waste incinerator serving 150,000 families, operating under highly controlled conditions designed to reduce formation and emission of air pollutants emits, on average, an amount of dioxin equivalent in weight to a single straight pin (approximately 0.072 grams). The same amount of dioxin is released when only 20 families burn their trash!

The brochure also addresses the issue of PVC involvement in dioxin pollution. Scientific experiments have shown that the generation of dioxin in backyard burning correlates best with variables related to combustion such as temperature and carbon monoxide, not the presence of PVC. Eliminating PVC, therefore, will not prevent dioxin formation as dioxins are commonly produced in virtually any combustion environment.

Note: For more information about the new brochure, please visit the Chlorine Chemistry Council web site at


4. Court dismisses $800M lawsuit

A federal judge dismissed an $800M lawsuit filed by a Maryland neurologist who claimed his brain cancer was caused by cell phone use. There is, of course, no claim so preposterous that an expert cannot be found to vouch for it. This case rested on research by Swedish oncologist Lennart Hardell, who published a study in this month's European Journal of Cancer Prevention that found long-term users of analog cell phones were at least 30 percent more likely than non-users to develop brain tumors. His claim was widely reported by the media. However, a review of epidemiological research on cell phone use, commissioned by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority, described Hardell's study as "non-informative" and concluded that "there is no scientific evidence for a causal association between the use of cellular phones and cancer."

From WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park, 4 Oct 02


5. Svenska Dagbladet exposes shoddy science behind cell phone and dioxin scares

A leading Swedish paper, Svenska Dagbladet (September 19, 2002) carried two articles about Swedish epidemiologist-oncologist Lennart Hardell. The first reported that American experts (including Harvard epidemiologist John Boice) could not support his claims about cell phones and brain tumors.

The second article revealed that according to a recently released still non-public internal memo of his Alma Mater in Umeå, Lennart Hardell had personally answered exposure questionnaires of controls in his study leading to his world-famous paper about fenoxyherbicides (read dioxin) (Brit J Cancer 1979;39:711-17). According to Mikko Paunio MD (MHS, Johns Hopkins) Senior Medical Officer of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, it is quite possible that this study, which is the mother of all dioxin cancer fears, is not just junk science but a fake. (Finnish forest industry has invested billions of dollars in chlorine-free technology because of Hardell, not to mention many other industries.)


6. Asbestos Suit Heads to Court, Despite Appeal by Companies

CHARLESTON, W.Va., Sept. 22 (Reuters) - An asbestos trial against some of the world's largest companies, including ExxonMobil and Honeywell International, begins in West Virginia this week, even as the case is being challenged before the United States Supreme Court. The lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court includes the cases of 8,000 people who say they were exposed to asbestos. About half of the 259 defendants have appealed to the Supreme Court, saying the cases are so dissimilar that consolidating them infringes on the defendants' constitutional rights.

"The trial plan does not appear to be in the same universe as the due process clause in the Constitution," said Walter Dellinger, a primary lawyer for the companies. "What gets lost in a mass trial with this number of defendants and this number of plaintiffs is that a lot of plaintiffs aren't sick and a lot of the companies have nothing to do with asbestos." The defendants include manufacturers, building owners and groups of employers, and there are so many cases that the trial is to be split into separate but simultaneous proceedings - one for companies being sued over product liability claims; the other for those being sued for on-premises exposure to asbestos. Jury selection is to begin Tuesday, with oral arguments starting as early as Wednesday before Judge Arthur Recht of Ohio County Circuit Court for product liability cases and Judge Booker Stevens of McDowell County Circuit Court for exposure cases.

Asbestos was widely used for fireproofing and insulation until the 1970's, when its use was curtailed after scientists concluded that inhaled asbestos fibers could be linked to lung cancer and other diseases. But asbestos-related sicknesses take years to materialize. In the last three years, the number of asbestos lawsuits has been increasing, forcing about 50 corporations into bankruptcy because of related liabilities. Nationwide, about 200,000 asbestos claims are pending.

Last week, the plaintiffs scored a victory when the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist, rejected requests to postpone the trial from ExxonMobil, Honeywell and Owens-Illinois. The companies wanted trial proceedings delayed until the Supreme Court could rule on their appeal. The court, now in recess, is expected to consider the appeal just before the start of its new term on Oct. 7.


7. Changes in Earth albedo as important as greenhouse effects

While many scientists and policy makers have focused only on how heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide are altering our global climate, a new NASA-funded study points to the importance of also including human-caused land-use changes as a major factor contributing to climate change.

Land surface changes, like urban sprawl, deforestation and reforestation, and agricultural and irrigation practices strongly affect regional surface temperatures, precipitation and larger-scale atmospheric circulation. The study by Roger Pielke Sr. (Colo State Univ) argues that human-caused land surface changes in places like North America, Europe, and southeast Asia, redistribute heat regionally and globally within the atmosphere and may actually have a greater impact on climate than that due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases combined.


8. NOAA Workshop on Climate Strategic Plan Announced

On December 3-5, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (or CCSP) is holding a comprehensive Workshop to "receive comments on a discussion draft version of the Strategic Plan for climate change and global change studies." The CCSP incorporates the U.S. Global Change Research Program (responsible for the National Assessment on the Impacts of Climate Change) and the Climate Change Research Initiative. The workshop is being sponsored by 13 different government agencies.

"The workshop," according to the announcement, "will review the USGCRP/CCRI plans with emphasis on the development of short-term (2-5 years) products to support climate change policy and resource management decision-making (emphasis added)."

The invited keynote speakers include a number of high-ranking officials, including some known for their extreme views on global warming. They include Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Robert Card, Undersecretary of Energy; Rita R. Colwell, Director of the National Science Foundation; Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Administrator of NOAA; John H. Marburger, Director of OSTP; G.O.P Obassi, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization; Sean O'Keefe, Administrator of NASA; R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC; and Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations' Environment Program.

The workshop will cover 13 areas or topics of research. A number of scientists will be invited to give presentations on these topics. Attendees will be allowed to comment. Written submissions will also be accepted for the record.

The 3-day workshop will be held in Washington, D.C. at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel at 2660 Woodley Rd., NW. Further information can be found at




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