NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Top Scientists Dispute EPA's PCB Concerns

December 12, 2000

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed that General Electric be made to spend $490 million to dredge the Hudson River. GE had legally dumped polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the river north of Albany for decades.

The EPA now says it is worried about "the health of the river" and an increased risk of cancer among humans from eating the river's fish.

But experts say there is no credible evidence that PCB exposure in the general environment, in fish, and even at very high levels in the workplace, has ever led to an increase in cancer risk.

  • An examination of the 1,500-page "Cancer Epidemiology and Causation" -- considered the bible of cancer causation -- by David Schottenfeld and Joseph F. Fraumeni Jr. reveals no reference whatsoever to PCB-containing fish or any other source of PCBs causing malignancy.
  • The National Cancer Institute reports that it knows of "no evidence" that eating fish from the Hudson River poses a cancer risk to humans.
  • The American Council on Science and Health, composed of 350 physicians and scientists, unanimously reached a similar conclusion over two years ago.

Experts point out the PCBs are now embedded in the mud beneath the Hudson, and are not generally dispersed in the water. But they probably would be if EPA has its way and GE is forced to spend half a billion dollars to dredge them up.

Source: Elizabeth M. Whelan (American Council on Science and Health), "Who Says PCBs Cause Cancer?" Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2000.


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