June 27, 2007 The Pump Handle 1Comment

As Dick Clapp wrote earlier this month, Rachel Carson’s critics have used the 100th anniversary of her birth as an occasion to attack the influential environmental author. In the New York Times, columnist John Tierney (sub only) called Carson’s classic work Silent Spring “a hodgepodge of science and junk science.” Barry Commoner, himself an author of landmark books on ecology, wrote a response to the Times, and has given us permission to post it here. -Liz Borkowski

To the Editor:

John Tierney’s rehash (Science Times, June 5, 2007) of the long discredited arguments against the 1972 law banning the use of DDT in the U.S. is a malicious attack on Rachel Carson’s classic work, “Silent Spring,” where she concluded that cancer incidence is largely due to synthetic organic chemicals rather than to naturally occurring ones. Tierney’s evidence that natural compounds are “as likely to be carcinogenic as synthetic ones” is directly contradicted by a comprehensive review of data from five international cancer agencies recently reported in the American Cancer Society’s journal CANCER. By checking this study’s list of chemicals that cause breast cancer in laboratory animals against the Combined Chemical Dictionary (a database distinguishing synthetic and natural organic chemicals), I find that of the total 212 organic chemicals, 203 are synthetic and only 9 are produced by living things. In calling “Silent Spring” a “hodgepodge of science and junk science,” Mr. Tierney has produced a shameful display of junk journalism.

Barry Commoner, Senior Scientist
CBNS, Queens College, CUNY

One thought on “Barry Commoner Responds to Attacks on Rachel Carson

  1. With verifiable reference material:

    The facts are that a Congressional Report by Nancy Pelosi,
    the Speaker of the House, documented that of the 1,400
    chemicals known to cause cancer, less than 6% are tracked.
    And that many more chemicals might cause cancer, but
    have not been adequately tested or evaluated.

    U.S. Lags in Toxicity Testing,
    Wednesday, May 3, 2000, Los Angeles Times http://www.angelfire.com/nm/redcollarcrime/lack.html


    LA Times newspaper article reported;
    Common chemicals are linked to breast cancer
    Of the 216 compounds, many in the air, food or everyday items.
    By, Marla Cone marla.cone@latimes.com
    May 14, 2007
    The article cites reports showing that the vast majority of breast
    cancers are caused by toxic environmental exposures.

    26 Trade Secrets;
    A web page from Bill Moyers Public Broadcasting show, national television. Documentation of 50 years of corporate cover up of toxic chemicals poisoning pf people, and the
    millions of dollars spent in law suits, prior to the
    “Sunshine Laws” that no longer allow them to “seal the records” in out of court settlements.


    The simple facts are that chemical companies developed
    chemical and biological weapons for our country. Back in
    World War One and Two, they made things like nerve gas.
    At some point, the watered down the nerve gas and started
    calling them “pesticides”. The report “Poison for Profit”
    (157) documents that the chemical companies and the
    pharmaceutical companies are really controlled by the same

    By Ashley Simmons Hotz May 15, 2002
    The huge transnational companies that produce toxic chemicals
    found in pesticides, herbicides and industrial and household
    products profit not only from the sale of these products, but
    also from the symptoms and chronic illnesses that they can

    Even more disturbing is what is termed “the revolving door” from these companies and their executives into many of the high ranking administration offices of our government, in Washington DC. From the National Institute of Health to the Food and Drug Administration and beyond.

    “The revolving door” is easily shown with an Internet http://www.google.com search term, “revolving door washington DC drugs chemical companies”.


    many of the “tolerable levels of exposure” to a (singular) toxic chemical have been fraudulently produced for decades.

    But it is well documented in the book “Toxic Deception (81) that they have known this since the 1970’s. In the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories (IBT) performed about 35-40% of all U.S. Toxicology testing. Of the 867 audits of IBT performed by the FDA under the 1962 law, 618 were found to be invalid because of numerous discrepancies between the study conduct and data. FDA flexed its muscles and found four IBT managers guilty of fraud.” Yet the EPA has still been accepting these “studies” that are financed by industry, with out any real review !!! http://www.westgard.com/guest16.htm

    Test fraud again made headlines in 1994, when Craven Laboratories was fined over 15 million dollars and its … Fifty Years of Legislation, by CAROLINE COX (132).

    81: Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law and Endangers Your Health. 2nd ed. Dan Fagin, Marianne Lavelle, and the Center for Public Integrity. 1999. 250 pp. ISBN 1567511627 ABSTRACTS OF NEW BOOKS ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, American Journal of Public Health, Jul99, Vol. 89 Issue 7, p1120, 2p. http://www.angelfire.com/nm/redcollarcrime/td.html

    132: Registering Pesticides No Guarantee of Safety…. would not occur in the future. 38 However, test fraud again made headlines in 1994, when Craven Laboratories was fined over 15 million dollars and its … Fifty Years of Legislation, by CAROLINE COX


    The irony of prescription drugs

    Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts

    1-202-862-0443 gardiner@nytimes.com
    If you need to reach The Times immediately,
    please call 212-556-1234.
    Published: June 27, 2007 New York Times
    Mental Health & Behavior

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