News stories trumping junk science are common, but I expect better from Fox News, which claims to be “fair and balanced” and hosts great shows like STOSSEL. And they’ve run some of my commentaries, which I appreciate. That’s why I am perplexed by some Fox reports on environmental issues, many of which seem to peddle junk science pushed by activists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
For example, the other day Fox published a silly story from Prevention magazine on how chemicals found in popcorn cooked in nonstick pans might give you heart disease based on a single study that found a statistical association, which can occur by mere chance. How many other studies failed to find an association? The article doesn’t bother to go there—rather, it says: “Scary? You bet.” The article does offer a weak qualifier, stating that “more research needs to be done to determine the specific relationship between PFOA [the chemical used in non-stick the pans] and cardiovascular disease.”
Yet EWG’s Shoppers’ Guide is a perversion of data that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) collects annually to measure traces of pesticides found on produce. Residue levels are always extremely low, and USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency both explain that the data demonstrates that levels are too low to pose significant health risks. Yet EWG lists healthy foods—such as apples—as “dirty” because they have a few extra parts per billion of trace pesticide residues. The response should be: Who cares? The levels are too low to have an impact, and eating these foods is certainly good for your health.
Rather than offering any insights, alternative views, or bothering to ask USDA about its data, Fox Business “reports“:
Eating pesticide-contaminated apples, strawberries and peaches is concerning regardless of the consumer’s age, it’s extremely worrisome because they tend to be children’s favorites, says Lunder. “It’s a concern for us because kids eat a lot of these, sometimes daily. […] One of the best ways to avoid pesticides in your produce is to buy organic.
In addition to the pesticide levels being too low to have an impact, the claim that eating organic is healthier is simply not supported by the facts. Stanford University recently debunked that claim in a study as have many others.
It’s one thing for Fox to publish commentary on these issues, but its news reports on environmental issues certainly could be far more fair and balanced.