The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has just announced it’s giving its highest honor to Los Angeles paralegal Erin Brockovich, best known for her virtual beatification in the allegedly "based on a true story" film of the same name. Julia Roberts portrayed her as having the mouth of a hooker but a heart of gold. Yet the Hollywood Brockovich is bunk, and this is not Harvard’s finest hour.
HSPH gives its Julius Richmond Award to those who "have promoted and achieved high standards for public heath conditions." In this case, according to a response to outraged HSPH alum (American Council on Science and Health President Elizabeth Whelan), it’s for Brockovich’s efforts "on behalf of all of us, and especially the residents of Hinkley, California, whose health was adversely affected by a toxic substance dumped by a utility company."
Do you feel benefited? You shouldn’t. Here’s why.
The California Cancer Registry showed no excess cancer in Hinkley compared to surrounding counties, despite the claim of Brockovich and her law firm that they suffered terribly high rates from exposure to chromium-6 in drinking water. Indeed, there was no evidence of any excess illness at all.
Further, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s toxicology web site, "No data were located in the available literature that suggested that chromium-6 is carcinogenic by the oral route of exposure." Indeed, "Exposure to chromium-6 in tap water via all plausible routes of exposure," even in extremely high concentrations, concluded the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, poses no "acute or chronic health hazard to humans."
The true beneficiary of Erin Brockovich has the initials "E.B." She pocketed a bonus of over $2 million in the Hinkley case, although many residents who truly were sick (albeit not from chromium-6) never got a dime.
Monday, October 03, 2005
I wonder how many people know about this:
Do read the whole thing.