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End the Superfund now!

By Alan Caruba
web posted July 22, 2002

The Senate is poised to vote on the continuation of the Superfund, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Recovery Act. Established in 1980, it spent $20 billion dollars between 1981 and 1992 without demonstrating it has had any effect on human health.

Using the Environmental Protection Agency's own calculations of costs to protect a single life, the Superfund thus far has spent up to $7.2 billion to supposedly avert a single case of cancer. It is time to end this mindless, wasteful program.

"Superfund is a huge federal program with growing costs which in a decade might rival those of social security and defense."

"Like old generals who always want to fight the last war, EPA regulators are continuing to fight a war against a lead poisoning problem that has already been won."

Peter Samuel was economics editor and chief editorial writer at the Canberra Times, writing about public policies for 14 years before he moved to the United States in 1980 and continued to write about environmental, transportation, and defense issues. He has authored policy studies for the Cato Institute, Reason Public Policy Institute and my friend, Joe Bast's Heartland Institute.

He's written a book, "Lead Astray: Inside an EPA Superfund Disaster", published by the Pacific Research Institute ($24.95). While most people read a good novel during the summer months, it falls to pundits who want to keep their credentials in good order to read about things most people would rather ignore. Take a moment, though, to contemplate what Samuel is warning about, an Environmental Protection Agency program whose costs are growing exponentially. A program without any real reason to exist!

Suffice it to say that his book is extensively footnoted with thorough documentation. "Today," he writes, lead has essentially been banished from our food supply. Lead-based pesticides are no longer manufacturers, and cans soldered with lead are no longer used to package food or beverage for humans." He goes on to note the many other areas of our lives in which exposure to lead has ceased to exist. The one the remains as a hazard is "old deteriorating paint in houses painted before the 1950s, which number about 20 million, almost a fifth of all houses." How many of those houses do you think have since been painted?

The rationale for the Superfund program that funds digging up and removing soil allegedly posing a hazard is based on the Integrated Exposure Uptake Bio-Kinetic (UBK) computer model. "EPA's practice of using its model's output as a substitute for reality is the epitome of junk science," says Samuel. His book documents how the EPA routinely ignores blood-screening data, "sometimes slandering the local public health officials, in deference to its UBK model."

The reason to pay some attention to this, says Samuel, is that it demonstrates that the EPA is an agency that "has run amok, wasting vast amounts of the nation's resources, looting the funds of major corporations and dissipating the scarce tax dollars of local communities, jeopardizing jobs, disrupting people's lives, and corrupting science, while doing little or nothing for health or the environment."

There are two federal agencies that I would close down in a hot minute. One is the Environmental Protection Agency and the other is the Department of Education. Each has become an oxymoron, destroying various elements of the Bill of Rights and, in the case of the EPA, attacking the economic engine that has made America is the most powerful nation in the world.

The US Department of Health's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registration (ATSDR) has produced a study the size of a telephone book called "Toxicological Profile of Lead." It has a 75-page appendix listing more than a thousand studies on lead health effects. It concludes, "No reports were found indicating low levels of lead as a cause of major congenital anomalies." In layman's language, Samuel noted that "Lead has not been linked to some important categories of diseases-to cancers generally, heart disease, or birth defects."

Samuel's book provides one case history after another documenting the abuses of the Superfund program. ATSDR has classified only two percent of the Superfund's 30,000 sites as representing an imminent and urgent public health hazard. "There is something horribly wrong with an EPA system that assembles an enormous list of supposedly hazardous waste sites, then winnows them down to 1,200-odd National Priorities List of which 63 percent of sites present no proven hazard, and 98 percent do not present an imminent and urgent hazard, according to the federal government's own health assessment organization."

In a time when this nation faces the threat of external and internal Islamist terrorists, and its economy is in a tailspin, Congress should end the Superfund program. It's wasteful to the tune of billions of dollars.

Samuel notes the cost, but he cites the best reason to end it. "The EPA has an equally powerful self-interest in playing up health hazards. It should not be in the business of assessing hazards as well as making its livelihood out of alleviating them. It is a standing invitation to the corruption of science."

This has been the single, greatest threat the environmental movement and the EPA have represented for decade. The corruption of science leads inevitably to the corruption of an economy based on the advances science and technology have provided. End the Superfund now.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about scare campaigns designed to influence public opinion and policy. (c) Alan Caruba, 2002

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