We Need Reliable Science in the Gulf


With an EPA senior official accusing his own employer of being part of a BP conspiracy, how are we to believe government assessments and risks about pollution from the spill? And didn’t that very same agency give the “all clear” too early after the 9/11 attack, causing widespread illness among cleanup workers?

We need the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to step into this situation immediately, creating a panel to determine what is actually happening in terms of hard science. We’ve seen the cozy relationship between government and industry that led to this disaster, and now we’re seeing the same sort of “teamwork” when it comes to pollution assessments and the health risks involved. Look, I’m used to dueling experts … the oil companies can (and do) hire the best and the brightest to say pretty much anything about pollution levels and accompanying risks, and anyone suing them has the burden of proving that pollution actually does exist and that there are health risks associated with that pollution. So we’re very careful in gathering samples, and we have our data checked and double checked by independent laboratories … but we realize that’s part of winning a lawsuit, and public policy should have its own research.

The NAS is the group to do this extremely important work. The organization was created in the wake of the Civil War, and some of our most esteemed organizations have been formed under its charter, like the Institute of Medicine. It has the stature for this truly epic task, and hopefully it would be able to assess the dangers quickly enough to prepare for the coming wave of oil-caused illnesses in the Gulf.

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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