I Want the Freedom to Pour Hot Coffee on My Balls

We know from the last Green Chain post, that Jerry Brown (aka Governor Moonbeam) is a Prophet. Fewer folks know that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth–son of Edmund G. “Pat” Brown–and a stick up his butt. As a prophet (a Jesuit one, at that), he believes that people ought to turn back (i.e., repent) and give up their evil profligate ways. We, the great unwashed, simply use too much water, fuel, land, air, everything.

Welcome to California. A land where coffee the state warns you that they’re sure it endangers your health. Photo by the author.

What does this have to do with me pouring hot coffee on my balls? I’m getting to that.

And being a progressive, he advocates for the improvement of society by reform. In his ideal world, the well-being of the state is more important than the well-being of any individual, and the individual should be damn glad that he (or she) can contribute to that noble goal. Sit down, shut up, and row, plebe.

Progressives believe that they are: experts serving the public good, identifying the public good, and knowing how to achieve the public good. As progressives, Brown and the California legislature are confident in their ability to diagnose a problem and dictate the cure.

“…I see the day in our own lifetime that reverence for the natural systems–the oceans, the rainforests, the soil, the grasslands, and all other living things–will be so strong that no narrow ideology based upon politics or economics will overcome it”. — Jerry Brown, 1979, Governor of California.

 

“We can’t fight nature. We have to learn how to get along with her.”–Jerry Brown, 2018, Governor of California.

The latest progressive effort by California to color inside the lines and get along with nature is telling its citizens to cut back on their use of municipal drinking water. The stick up his ass must be a divining rod, always pointing toward proper policy. Bend over citizen and take your “medicine.”

Here is part of what California’s legislature and its governor prescribed:

  1. Use no more than 55 gallons per capita daily for Indoor residential use.
  2. Outdoor residential use – To be deternmined
    1. The standards shall incorporate the principles of the model water efficient landscape ordinance adopted by the department pursuant to the Water Conservation in Landscaping Act (Article 10.8 (commencing with Section 65591) of Chapter 3 of Division 1 of Title 7 of the Government Code)..
  3. Commercial water uses – To be determined
    1. The department, in coordination with the board, shall conduct necessary studies and investigations and recommend, no later than October 1, 2021, standards for outdoor irrigation of landscape areas with dedicated irrigation meters or other means of calculating outdoor irrigation use in connection with CII water use for adoption by the board in accordance with this chapter.
  4. Find ways to stop water losses – To be determined.
    1. Identify water management objectives based on the water budget to improve water system efficiency or to meet other water management objectives. The agricultural water supplier shall identify, prioritize, and implement actions to reduce water loss, improve water system management, and meet other water management objectives identified in the plan.
  5. Establishes a method to calculate each urban water use objective – To be determined.
  6. Requires the department (of Water Resources) to provide or otherwise identify data regarding the unique local conditions to support the calculation of an urban water use objective. – To be determined.
  7. Requires annual reporting of the previous year’s water use with the urban water use objective.
  8. Requires the department and the board to solicit broad public participation from stakeholders and other interested persons in the development of the standards and the adoption of regulations pursuant to this chapter.
    1. The studies, investigations, and report…shall include collaboration with, and input from, a broad group of stakeholders, including, but not limited to, environmental groups, experts in indoor plumbing, and water, wastewater, and recycled water agencies.
  9. Provides one-time-only authority to the department and board to adopt water use efficiency standards

Is there a better way to allocate a scarce resource than having legislators solicit help from special interest groups, such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Working Group, et alia?

Yes. Markets are extremely good at allocating scarce resources. It’s what markets do. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner,” wrote Adam Smith, “but from their regard to their own interest.”

As libertarian environmental attorney, Jonathon Wood put it a year ago on his FREEcology blog:

“The primary benefit of water markets is that it encourages people to put their money where their mouth is. In political arguments, it’s too easy to say you value more fish, streams, healthcare, or any other good above all else, if you know someone else will have to pay for it. Everything is assigned infinite value in the world of political rhetoric but, in the real world, we all constantly recognize and make tradeoffs.

“Water markets encourage people with conflicting interests to work together to make those tradeoffs. If environmentalists value an extra acre foot of water in a stream more than a farmer could profit by using it to grow crops, there’s an opportunity for a beneficial exchange. If they don’t, there isn’t—and the water will go to farms where its most valued, as it should.”

What does the above have to do with me pouring hot coffee on my balls? Let me tell you…

This week Anthony Bourdain took his life while on location in Paris. As of this writing, there is no indication why, though many are guessing at severe depression. In an interview with Baylen Linnekin, he said, “This notion that the government owes you food absolutely free of any risk or dirt is an unreasonable one,” he tells me, calling it a “worldview that seems to be shared by Republicans and Democrats . . . I think a reasonably intelligent person doesn’t need a warning label to tell them not to pour hot coffee on their balls.”

Is it too much to hope for that our governments acted as though their citizens were reasonably intelligent and allow them to live their lives without being told how to live it and  that hot coffee might scald their genitals.

Apparently it is in these United States, and especially in progressive California.

 

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California’s Solar Virtue Signal Could Put Housing Out of Reach

The California Energy Commission (CEC) said, “Eureka, we have a refulgently brilliant idea! Let’s require installation of solar panels on new home and low-rise apartment building construction.” Assuming the California Building Standards Commission ratifies the CEC’s proposal (a purported slam-dunk) it will take affect starting January 1, 2020. Less than two years from now.

”The case for this was extremely strong,” [1] CEC commissioner Andrew McAllister said. “[In] California, we do believe in climate change, we do believe in facts … It’s become clear to all of us it’s the right thing to do and that the marketplace is ready.”[2] the UPI reported.

In light of their actions, what the CEC doesn’t believe in are: 1) carbon-free nuclear power plants, 2) consumer choice, or 3) free markets. California has bent to activist pressure and already closed the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plants will close in 2024 and 2025. When the Commish said, ”[T]the marketplace is ready” he didn’t mean a marketplace where you get to choose what you want. He meant a marketplace where you get to pay for what he wants. He meant delicious gooey Crony Capitalism[3], where well-healed, well-connected lobbyists convince bureaucrats to employ the lobby’s preferred remedy.

According to NPR, “Representatives from construction groups, public utilities and solar manufacturers all spoke in support of the plan, which they’ve helped the commission develop for years,” the AP reports. “No industry groups spoke in opposition.” Of course, no groups spoke in opposition: the benefits are concentrated in a few industries and the harm is dispersed among many lower income people and potential homeowners.

The result is Crony Capitalist Pork. Keeping with the meat metaphor, I have no beef with these groups representing their constituents, but I don’t have to like the result. I like markets to sort out such things. Government’s role is to enforce contracts between individuals and protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. Beyond that, government’s top-down approach hampers market-driven, bottom-up solutions.

And the bottom line to everyone–but especially the people on the bottom economic rung–is it effectively takes money from their pockets to pay for this scheme. Under this program, everything is going to cost more, especially housing. And not just newly constructed housing. All housing will cost more, including rentals. Look for an upturn in people looking for existing homes because they’ve been priced out of building new. This will force prices up. It is obvious that the CEC does not understand supply and demand curves, incentives, or anything from a basic economics course.

Unlike Classical Liberals, Progressives within government are sure they know not only how to diagnose a market problem, but how to “fix” it with a sure fire prescription. It’s like your nosy neighbor telling you what’s wrong with your life and has the answer to help you. Now imagine she has the power to force you to do it. That is what the CEC has done. As Veronique de Rugy writes on Reason.com, “These members of the ‘government within the government,’ produce one freedom-restricting, economy-hindering rule after another without much oversight. These rules take many forms, and few even realize they’re in the making—until, that is, they hit you square in the face.”

Photo Credit: Libertarianism.org

The progressive Los Angeles Times editorial board is all for punching you square in the face. “Of course California should require solar panels on new homes,” An LA Times opinion piece gushed.

The opening paragraph says, getting punched in the face is good for you.

The benefits of solar power are well established. Photovoltaics harness the sun to create electricity, reducing the need for dirtier forms of energy. And residents generate their own power, cutting their utility bills.[4]

There is so much wrong with this paragraph. It begs the question with “The benefits of solar power are well established.” No, the benefits of solar power are not well established. As Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress notes, If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive? “Electricity prices increased 24 percent in California during its solar energy build-out from 2011 to 2017.” And from 2011 to 2017, California, a state whose progressive leadership is committed to renewable energy, saw electricity rates rise to five times higher than the national average. And California is not a one-off in the rate hike department. Germany, Denmark, and Spain already blazed that trail.

The Times editorial goes on to say, The energy commission’s new building standards, which require both solar panels and upgraded insulation, air filters and other efficiency measures, are expected to raise the cost of a new home by $9,500. That’s about half the cost of installing solar systems on existing homes (although tax breaks and other financial incentives can lower the bill). And homes built to the new standards are expected to use 50% as much energy as homes built in 2016 without solar panels….

Yes, the new standards will increase the cost to build homes and apartment complexes. That’s a concern in California, which is in the midst of a housing crisis because it failed for years to build enough homes to keep up with population demand. However, energy-efficiency investments save money over time. The energy commission estimated the new standards will add $40 per month to the average new home mortgage payment, but save $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting.

The installation cost appears correct though it may turn out to be higher. It is the anticipated savings in energy that they expect that should trouble you. Federal and state governments continue to press for efficiency as a way to save fuel (in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions). And they are usually dead wrong. Too often, government officials do not consider The Energy Efficiency Paradox. Basically, if you save money on one thing, you have money for more of that thing or of something else. If your house is better insulated you might opt to make it cooler or warmer to be more comfortable. You might take a drive to the beach with your savings or buy a bigger car.

And the mandate will be a tax on other rate payers. According to Severin Borenstein,  E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business writing to Commissioner Weisenmiller, “The savings calculated for the households are based on residential electricity rates that are far above the actual cost of providing incremental energy, so embody a large cross subsidy from other ratepayers. This would be a very expensive way to expand renewables and would not be a cost effective practice…”  In a nutshell, the LA Times editorial board and the CEC cooked the numbers.

The state is spurring innovation and job creation in the clean-energy sector. (California is ranked first in the nation for solar industry jobs at 86,000 — seven times more than the second-ranked state.)

Whenever you hear about government “spurring innovation and job creation” it is to cover the noise of cash being sucked from your bank account. Pork rarely innovates anything. And, the number of jobs is not a good thing. It is the opposite of a good thing for the majority of us—the people paying for electricity and for stuff made with that electricity. The electricity made with solar costs more because it takes forty people in solar to produce the same amount of electricity produced using natural gas. Lots of Jobs per KWH is Bad, not Good. [5]

The Times board sums up their argument with, At the moment, there’s simply no better way to reduce the power demand and greenhouse gas emissions from new residential developments than combining solar power with more energy-efficient designs. The long-term savings, both to homeowners and to the environment, are well worth the up-front cost.

I can think of several reasons for the editorial board lobbing this insane whopper. The possibility that I favor is they have their heads so far up their asses they can’t see more obvious possibilities, such as nuclear.[6] Robert Bryce said in a talk he gave, “There has been a continuing pursuit of density, and, more particularly, power density. And yet now when it comes to energy production, we are told we should go the other way. Toward low power density…. This makes no sense. I’d call it insane but it would be an insult to crazy people.”

In an insult to crazy people, California is requiring a hella-expensive feel good virtue signal and shutting down its power-dense, carbon-free nuclear power plants and replacing them with natural gas and coal (forget the solar panels—they all make power at the same time—driving down the value of the electricity they produce.)

Insane. 

 


Footnotes

  1. No. He lies like a cheap rug. Cardboard suitcases are stronger than this case’s raison d’être. The case isn’t very strong at all. 
  2. Translation: “The fix is in.”
  3. Also known as cronyism, venture socialism, corporatism, mercantilism, or just plain horse droppings. “Unlike in a free market capitalist system, under crony capitalism it is often more profitable for businesses to spend resources lobbying legislators for handouts in the form of grants, loans, or tax advantages, and protections against competition in order to increase their profits.  In turn, the government’s willingness to hand out special privileges promotes the politically well-connected rather than those who seek to earn the preference of investors and consumers based on merit. The gains of such activities usually accrue to the businesses and politicians involved at the expense of consumers and taxpayers.” http://library.intellectualtakeout.org/library/business-and-economics/free-market-capitalism-vs-crony-capitalism
  4. See Footnote 1
  5. Imagine going to Burger King for dinner and, by law, each BK must employ 40 times the people it would normally at $15 per hour to make your meal. The result is one hellaciously expensive burger.
  6. “Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don’t know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.”- Thomas Sowell

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Don’t Drink Yellow Tap Water

California, chemaphobia, and the ‘Erin Brockovich chemical’ (Chromium-6)

Chromium 6 found in elementary school’s drinking water

On March 11, 2016, Coyote Valley Elementary School near Middletown, California (north of San Francisco), started handing out bottled water following reports that the Hidden Valley Lake municipal water supply had levels of chromium-6 higher than were allowed by the state division of drinking water. As a result the school turned off its drinking fountains and handed out bottled water.

How much higher? Three parts per billion (ppb) higher. In California, 10 parts per billion of chromium-6 is the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for drinking water. Their water tested at 13 ppb. (The regulations are found in California’s Drinking Water Law Book.) One billion is a lot. One billion drops of water (at five ml per drop) is enough to fill more than two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“Logistically, its been a nightmare,” Coyote Valley Principal Shane Lee is quoted saying in the Lake County Record-Bee, “I’m looking forward to turning our faucets back on.”

The Record-Bee article goes on to say, “Chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is a highly toxic heavy metal and a known carcinogen made famous by law clerk Erin Brockovich…”

Here is what is correct about the above sentence:

  • Chromium-6 is also known as hexavalent chromium, or CR(VI)
  • It is a known carcinogen when inhaled in high concentrations over long periods of time.
  • It was made famous by Erin Brockovich, a law clerk for the legal firm of Masry & Vittitoe.

Chromium, the stuff of bumper coatings, is an odorless and tasteless metallic element. It is found naturally in rocks, plants, soil and volcanic dust, and animals. The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural waters in the environment are trivalent chromium (CR(III) or chromium-3) and hexavalent chromium (also referred to as CR(VI) or chromium-6). Chromium-6 occurs naturally in the environment from the erosion of natural chromium deposits. It can also be produced by industrial processes. (Source: Chromium in Drinking Water, EPA.gov)

Chromium, the stuff of bumper coatings, is an odorless and tasteless metallic element. It is found naturally in rocks, plants, soil and volcanic dust, and animals. The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural waters in the environment are trivalent chromium (CR(III) or chromium-3) and hexavalent chromium (also referred to as CR(VI) or chromium-6). Chromium-6 occurs naturally in the environment from the erosion of natural chromium deposits. It can also be produced by industrial processes. — Source: Chromium in Drinking Water, EPA.gov

Welcome to Cheomphobifornia

Welcome to California, home of chemophobia and flawed risk assessment. Photo by the author.

Welcome to California, home of chemophobia and flawed risk assessment. Photo of a Starbucks Proposition 65 warning by the author.

To say California “errs on the side of caution” would be putting too fine a point on things. California, home of Proposition 65, is chemophobic.

As I wrote on this blog previously, “In 1986, we Californians passed Proposition 65, ‘The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act,’ and Prop 65 is the reason you see signs everywhere, including Starbucks, saying, ‘Warning! Detectable amounts of chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm may be found in or around this facility.’” As a side note, you won’t find these signs at the smaller coffee houses. It’s not that they don’t have the same chemicals warned of in the signs; they are not worth suing–not deep enough pockets.

California’s 10 parts per billion–ppb (10 µg/L) maximum contaminant level (MCL) for chromium-6 became effective on July 1, 2014. Up until that time, the school’s water supply had been considered safe (note: at 13 ppb, nearly one-tenth of the federal standard, it still is very safe). The community’s well, on which the school relies, provided water significantly below California’s pre-2014 super-cautious 50 ppb (50 µg/L) MCL for chromium-6. This is 1/10 of the very cautious federal limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency of 100 ppb (100 µg/L) for total chromium.

For added irony, the bottled water the school handed out needed to meet the federal standard only of 100 ppb. The bottled water could have have more chromium-6 than the water fountains had. You can’t make this stuff up.

Chromium-6: The Legacy of Erin Brockovich

By Alison Cassidy [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alison Cassidy [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By now everyone know the story of the “busty” “gutsy” legal assistant Erin Brockovich, who, in 1993, gathered 600 prospective plaintiffs from the tiny tumbleweed of a desert town of Hinkley, California to sue the electrodes off the evil corporation of Pacific, Gas, and Electric (PG&E) for leaching chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium) into Hinkley’s groundwater supply. In 2000, it was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts as “busty” “gutsy” Erin Brockovich.

What the movie doesn’t mention is that according to Quackwatch, “In December 1987, PG&E determined that 10 domestic wells serving 14 families contained chromium at levels only slightly above the U.S. Department of Evironmental Protection’s drinking water standard. In response, PG&E provided bottled drinking water and offered a free medical evaluation to these families.”

In the movie, “Everybody and everything from the chickens to frogs to people were purportedly keeling over with illnesses including breast cancer, chronic nosebleeds(1), Hodgkin’s disease (lymphoma), lung cancer(2), brain stem cancer, stress, chronic fatigue, miscarriages, chronic rashes, gastrointestinal cancer, Crohn’s disease, spinal deterioration, kidney tumours, ‘intestines eaten away,’ and other things unlisted because that’s as fast as I could write in a dark theatre,” according to investigative reporter Michael Fumento. Brockovich decides that chromium-6 must be the culprit because PG&E had the deepest pockets.

The law firm’s team persuaded the jury that chromium-6 leached into the groundwater by PG&E had afflicted Hinkley’s population with this plague of diseases and won a record (at the time) $333,000,000.

That PG&E had leached chromium-6 into Hinkley’s groundwater supply is true; that chromium-6 caused all those afflictions is not.

“Stupid nonsense dressed up to look like complicated science is still just stupid nonsense.” – Frank Schnell, Board Certified PhD in Toxicology

According to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), “The problem is this: there is no way that hexavalent chromium was responsible for the cluster of health problems in Hinkley. And there is ample, peer-reviewed scientific evidence backing that conclusion.”

“[The movie, Erin Brockovich] encouraged exactly the wrong way to think about data, elevating individuals’ medical histories to the level of proof and distorting the notion of risk….The first question to ask is whether residents of Hinkley really did have more sickness than people living elsewhere.”

Yet the movie plays up what looks like science. “While it is easy to see that the sex and violence in movies are fantasies,” Gina Kolata wrote in the New York Times, “it is hard for any but scientists to discern when science in movies crosses the line from verity to hyperbole and indoctrination.” That is, it’s hard for us non-science types to distinguish the pepper from the fly shit. Hollywood hides the difference by suspending our disbelief for the purpose of telling a tale. Consider the scene where Brockovich visits Hinkley and is offered tea made with well water. She leaves the cup untouched and the camera dwells on the cup leaving the audience with foreboding; it’s contaminated with chromium-6. The truth is rather more prosaic and not nearly as dramatic: the chemical makeup of the tea will change CR(VI) to the nutrient CR(III).

According to scientists, “[T]he movie encouraged exactly the wrong way to think about data, elevating individuals’ medical histories to the level of proof and distorting the notion of risk….The first question to ask is whether residents of Hinkley really did have more sickness than people living elsewhere,” Kolata wrote.

“The problem is this: there is no way that hexavalent chromium was responsible for the cluster of health problems in Hinkley. And there is ample, peer-reviewed scientific evidence backing that conclusion.”

A 2003 study by Paustenbach, Finley, Mowat, and Kerger. says, “available information clearly indicates that Cr(VI) [chromium-6] ingested in tap water at concentrations below 2 mg/L is rapidly reduced to Cr(III) [chromium-3]” and that “Cr(VI) [chromium-6] in water up to 10 mg/L (ppm) does not overwhelm the reductive capacity of the stomach and blood.” In fact, chromium-3, as ACSH notes, “is an essential dietary nutrient required for normal glucose, protein, and fat metabolism, and is found in fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, beef, grain, and yeast.”

The Paustenbach study notes: “Because Cr(VI) [chromium-6] in water appears yellow at approximately 1-2 mg/L [1-2 parts per million], the studies represent conditions beyond the worst-case scenario for voluntary human exposure.”

“Because Cr(VI) [chromium-6] in water appears yellow at approximately 1-2 mg/L [1-2 parts per million], the studies represent conditions beyond the worst-case scenario for voluntary human exposure.” — Human health risk and exposure assessment of chromium (VI) in tap water

Mything Safety Hazards

Where did California get its 10 ppb limit?

Frankly, it looks like California’s political bureaucrats in the state’s Water Resources Board just pulled the number out of their collective asses. I have heard that the water board’s staff suggested 25 ppb for chromium-6, one half the WHO’s 50 ppb.

There’s scant evidence for us to be concerned with chromium 6 as a carcinogen in our drinking water. There’s no good evidence to backstop California’s Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) of 10 ppb for chromium 6 in drinking water. As noted before, the U.S. EPA sets the limit for all types of chromium at 100 ppb, and the uber-cautious United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) sets the limit at 50 ppb for chromium-6. From what I’ve seen, it looks like the European Union uses the WHO 50 ppb limit, which is still five times higher than California’s new MCL.

“Many states compete with the USEPA, and each other, to see who can be the most conservative. ” Frank Schnell, a Board Certified PhD in Toxicology told me in a phone interview.(3) He said even though the EPA’s MCL has a built in safety factor of 100, some states strive to be more conservative than the EPA, which sounds reasonable. “In reality, however, once you’re safe, having a limit 10 times lower does not make you 10 times safer. It just means you are unnecessarily alarming your citizens and wasting their money.”

He offered the analogy of standing at the Grand Canyon. “If you’re standing near the rim of the Grand Canyon admiring the view, you’re probably safe. Nevertheless, as improbable as it is, it’s not entirely impossible that a very strong gust of wind might blow you over the edge. To make sure that you were safe, even under very windy conditions, you could step back ten paces or so–that’s what regulators call a ‘safety factor.’ But, to imagine that stepping back 100 paces, or even a mile, would make you even more safe under implausible conditions (a tornado?) would be not only misguided, but counterproductive, as well, because then you couldn’t see the Grand Canyon, at all.”

“Chromium carcinogenicity via the oral route is more a matter of fiction than science,” Dr. Schnell told me in an email exchange. “Unfortunately, the non-scientists who saw the 2000 movie Erin Brokovich went away thinking they had seen a documentary rather than an entertaining fictionalization of a legal drama in which the scientific facts played no part.” There is a scene in the movie where Julia Roberts avoids the tea made for her and the camera focuses on it several times, making the point that it is contaminated with the dreaded chromium-6. “The fact is that, when consumed in contaminated water or beverages, Cr(VI) [chromium-6] is reduced to the required nutrient Cr(III) [chromium-3] which is essential for sugar & fat metabolism.”(emphasis in the original)

“Mice are not little men,” we should not ban a chemical “at the drop of a rat.” –Dr. E. Whelan, Founder, ACSH

As I noted, there is scant evidence, but there is some, suggesting that chromium-6 can be ingested in amounts so high that they overwhelm the stomach’s acids and affect the stomach and intestines. In one paper, the population of Liaoning Province, China, drank well water contaminated with chromium-6 from a ferrochromium factory in the province. The high levels of chromium-6 turned the water yellow. The “poor” data (the researchers agree the data are messy and haphazard) have been manipulated three ways from Sunday. At present, the statistical reviews conclude that the results are “consistent with” increased exposure. In another study, “F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice were administered sodium dichromate dihydrate, a hexavalent chromium compound, in drinking water for 2 years.” (EPA Draft, 2010) The 2010 EPA draft cites the “NTP Technical Report on the Toxicity Studies of Sodium Dichromate Dihydrate (CAS No. 7789-12-0) Administered in Drinking Water to Male and Female F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice and Male BALB/c and am3-C57BL/6 Mice.” Catchy, huh? Wonder why it wasn’t a New York Times bestseller? Rats and mice received concentrations of 6.25 62.5, 125, 250, 500, or 1,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium dichromate dihydrate per liter (L) of water. At the highest dosage of 1,000 mg/L the rats had “ulceration, hyperplasia, and metaplasia of the forestomach and histiocytic infiltration of the small intestine.” They conclude that “Exposure to sodium dichromate dihydrate caused hyperplasia and ulceration of the stomach in rats and an anemia and lesions of the small intestine in rats and mice.”

Which brings me back to another study, “Human health risk and exposure assessment of chromium (VI) in tap water,” Paustenbach’s 2003 study’s conclusion: “Based on a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for chromium derived from published studies, coupled with the dose reconstruction studies presented in this article, the available information clearly indicates that (1) Cr(VI) ingested in tap water at concentrations below 2 mg/L is rapidly reduced to Cr(III), and (2) even trace amounts of Cr(VI) are not systemically circulated. This assessment indicates that exposure to Cr(VI) in tap water via all plausible routes of exposure, at concentrations well in excess of the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level of 100 microg/L (ppb), and perhaps those as high as several parts per million, should not pose an acute or chronic health hazard to humans.” (Emphasis mine)

Recall that Chromium-6 in water appears yellow at approximately 1-2 mg/L. Would you drink water the color of fluorescent urine?

It’s really that simple. If chromium-6 worries you, don’t drink yellow tap water.

If chromium-6 worries you, don’t drink yellow tap water.

The Bottom Line: Chemaphobia Costs You more than money

Biased reports get dressed up in sciency jargon all the time. They are as Schnell told me, “designed to make your head hurt, so that you won’t hear that soft little voice of common sense in the back of your head whispering ‘this is all bullshit, isn’t it?.’..Stupid nonsense dressed up to look like complicated science is still just stupid nonsense.”

Studies conducted with agendas to prove a chemical is harmful, rather than determine facts, harm the science of toxicology. “More importantly,” Dr. Schnell points out, “they harm the very people they were designed to protect by diverting limited resources from the solution of real problems to the promotion of make-believe ones.”

Why does being “too safe” matter to you or me?

Two reasons:

  1. This type of excessive caution costs you and me time–in that it takes more time at work to pay for the testing for contaminants and, if necessary, upgrading of water treatment facilities (I work in water treatment; everything costs dearly.) You pay in the form of higher taxes, utility rates, and prices. Costs get passed on down to the consumer. “Ok but…,” I hear you saying, “This doesn’t matter if it makes me safer.”
  2. Aye, there’s the rub. This type of excessive caution does not make you safer. Not even an itty-bitty bit.

The Unbearable Lightness of Wallet

The ignorance and laziness of public officials to accept the word of activists over pragmatic scientists costs you money (which is in fact, time). And this is real money. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, puts the amount of money lost since 1980 due to added regulation at $4 trillion; a drag of 25 percent on our gross domestic product (GDP). “If regulation had been held constant at levels observed in 1980, the US economy would have been about 25 percent larger than it actually was as of 2012….This amounts to a loss of approximately $13,000 per capita, a significant amount of money for most American workers.”

Of course, economics alone should not guide us in decision making. But as Bjorn Lomborg reminds us, “[I]gnoring costs doesn’t make difficult choices disappear; it makes them less clear.”

When we spend money on the wrong priorities, that money is not available for things that could truly save lives. As Schnell told me, “In real life, excess conservatism doesn’t just waste money; it also costs lives.. i.e., the ones that could have been saved had the wasted money been spent more wisely.”

“[I]gnoring costs doesn’t make difficult choices disappear; it makes them less clear.” – Bjorn Lomborg

 

Footnotes

1. Dr. Schnell told me, “High concentrations of airborne Cr(VI) are sufficiently caustic to corrode the septum of the noses of unprotected workers occupationally exposed over extended periods of time. Hence, the fictional reference in one scene of the movie to PG&E workers having to wear masks to prevent nosebleeds.”

2. Chromium 6 “compounds have been found to cause lung cancer specifically in industry workers who, via inhalation over long periods of time, are exposed to levels in air up to 1,000 times higher than those found in the environment,” wrote the American Council on Science and Health. (emphasis in original)

3. August 26, 2016. Frank Schnell is a retired toxicologist for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in Atlanta, Georgia. and is a member of the American Council on Science and Health Scientific Advisory Panel.

References

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Kolata, Gina. “REFLECTIONS; A Hit Movie Is Rated ‘F’ In Science.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/11/health/reflections-a-hit-movie-is-rated-f-in-science.html.

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Schnell, Frank. 2016. “How Natural Variations Became Environmental Crises: The Numbers Racket.” American Council on Science and Health. http://acsh.org/news/2016/02/15/how-natural-variations-became-environmental-crises/.

Schnell, Frank. 2016. “How Natural Variations Became Environmental Crises: The Word Game.” American Council on Science and Health. http://acsh.org/news/2016/02/16/how-natural-variations-became-environmental-crises-the-word-game/.

Smith, Allan H. 2008. “Hexavalent Chromium, Yellow Water, and Cancer A Convoluted Saga.” Journal of Epidemiology 19 (1): 24–26. doi:10.1097/EDE.0b013e31815c40dc.

Schwarz, Ph.D., and Joe. 2004. “Erin Brockovich Story Largely Fiction.” http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/brockovich.html.

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