1. Of Ida Honorof, Defoliants, Deformed Babies, Legal Manslaughter, The EPA, Cancer and You
2. The Swine-Flu Fiasco: You Are The Guinea Pig
3. And a Letter from Time Magazine
[For those expecting Laetrile: The Goddamned-Contraband-Apricot Connection, Part II, it is coming. Next. In the meantime, news of two government-supported threats to your health.]
“Her Talk is Cheap.”
Ida Honorof, a consumer protectionist tough enough, in my view, to loom as the female Ralph Nader, pulls no punches in her unpaid (see L.A. Times quote above) consumer reporting for Los Angeles listener-sponsored KPFK-FM radio station and in her “Report to the Consumer” Newsletter. She has been credited by the L.A. Times and other publications with breaking some of the biggest horror stories of our time. In 1973, Honorof discovered that lettuce was being marketed which had been contaminated with a pesticide known as Monitor 4, a substance related to nerve gas. Regulatory agencies, loathe to admit they weren’t doing their job in monitoring these contaminants, pooh-poohed the feisty lady; so, of course, did representatives of the chemical industry. But Honorof had the facts. She knew that farmworkers exposed to the contaminated fields were becomining seriously ill. She also knew that the contaminant in question could be lethal in even tiny fractions of an ounce.
At legislative hearings where government and industry officials lined up to oppose her, Honorof launched what she called a “45-minute filibuster” when her turn to speak was delayed. “With TV cameras filming her,” The Los Angeles Times reported, “she loudly demanded the right to speak ‘before the chemical industry pollutes this hearing,’ talked down the hearing officer and stared down a visibly uncomfortable sergeant-at-arms who had been ordered to remove her.” Later Honorof called a national press conference with United Farm Workers Union Cesar Chavez at her side in order to further publicize the Monitor 4 threat. Then things began happening. The government agencies that had belittled Honorof ordered thousands of cases of lettuce destroyed and banned the use of Monitor 4. Honorof won first prize in the investigative reporting competition of the Associated Press.
Bringing the War Home
Honorof was also among the first to point out the extreme dangers of fattening up beef cattle by feeding them the carcinogenic substance DES (diethylstilbestrol). She has waged a tireless campaign against countless other food additives, herbicides, pesticides and the like, as well. Recently she and a California State University biology professor called a press conference to accuse the U.S. Forest Service of contaminating the state’s 17 national forests with the defoliants 2, 4-D, 2, 4, 5-T and 2, 4-DP, all of which, they said, had been shown capable of causing cancers genetic damage and death in a wide variety of animals. Their findings, they added, indicated that some of these defoliants, previously used in Vietnam, were probably responsible for the deaths of some 300 sheep which mysteriously expired not long ago in Northern California near sprayed areas. These defoliants, used in forests to create fire breaks, are so toxic that they were actually banned from military use in Vietnam after it was discovered that they could cause birth defects and cancer in man. Yet, charges Honorof, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cleared them for use in our own forests!
That clearance, it should be understood, has come over the outspoken objections of many of EPA’s own scientific advisers. Hired by EPA to analyze pesticide studies, Dr. Melvin D. Reuber, a pathologist, found a significant number of the studies, most of them carried out by industry, “misleading and distorted.” Dr. Reuber was critical of EPA’s policy to permit industry to test its own products; he found both the candor and the scientific method of industry lacking. Time and again he discovered an eagerness on industry’s part to attribute abnormal incidence of tumors (and other ills) in animals exposed to various pesticides as the product of “aging” or of “spontaneous disease.”
Recently, Honorof reports, 12 former and present EPA scientists and lawyers have testified in the U.S. Senate that there is “inadequate evidence of safety for the nation’s entire supply of pesticides.” Their statement continues: “Government regulatory agencies allow critical testing processes to be controlled by those same companies [which] market these toxic compounds.”
Dr. Theodore Sterling of Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, served on the EPA advisory committee that evaluated the defoliant chemical 2, 4, 5-T. It was his opinion that in approving of the substance, the committee “fell short of being completely fair in its evaluation of the evidence on which conclusions are based….” He questioned “the wisdom of instituting a ‘permissible residue’ of substances thought to be teratogenic [productive of birth defects].” Dr. Sterling has written that:
By and large, because of his varied diet, man has escaped so far the harmful effects of mass poisoning of some foods. But there is now practically no uncontaminated food left. All foodstuffs contain residues of toxic materials in various states of concentration. If we do not learn to restrain the use of these toxic agricultural chemicals we may share the fate of the pelican…the dioxin residues of phenoxy herbicides [such as 2, 4-D, 2, 4, 5-T and others] hit the coming generations, the very young, the infants, because these dioxins are embryotoxic and fetogenic. They are malformers and killers of babies. While the residues of most common insect pesticides are threatening the health of the adult population, the dioxin residues of phenoxy herbicides harm future generations.
Dr. Sterling has some interesting things to say about chemical politics, as well:
It is often stated that the attack on 2, 4, 5-T was a part of the anti-Vietnam war movement and that attempts to obtain reasonable regulations of phenoxy herbicides are at bottom political…”anti-American” or “pro-communist” activities. These claims are sheer nonsense. The fact that 2, 4 ,5-T was a teratogen was determined independently of, and before, reported damage to Vietnamese babies.
Most agricultural and forestry industries are in the hands of immensely large corporations that like to increase their short-term profits and have no motive for fostering long-term soil preservation. They are joined by a small number of large chemical companies such as Dow Chemical, Velsicol or Shell, that make enormous profits by satisfying the market for agricultural chemicals. Government regulating agencies that are concerned about productivity, jobs and prosperity of farmers, foresters, food producers, or industries, have a large tolerance for products they believe contribute to the health of the economy…[there is] a constant exchange of managers and scientists between U.S. government regulatory agencies and the U.S. chemical industry, so that serious questions arise about conflict of interest.
It is understandable that users, industry and regulatory agencies tend to be persuaded by alleged benefits from the use of toxic agricultural materials, despite consistent and clear evidence of the serious hazard to themselves, their families and their fellow man. What hurts especially is the lack of integrity of some of the scientists who work for industry.
A Nuremberg for American Scientists?
Dr. Sterling suggests that scientists who distort data and harm others should be held accountable for their crimes. Given the soaring cancer rate and growing evidence that many chemicals now being marketed are carcinogenic, scientists who willfully suppress, distort or ignore evidence of carcinogenicity can, in a very real sense, be said to be committing manslaughter. Dr. Sterling writes:
Reports by scientists have been accepted in the past without challenge because of the common faith in the ethics of science. Bitter experience has now shown that such faith is not enough. Not all scientists adhere to professional ethics. Some suppress data, make incorrect reports…or fail to report unfavorable observations. Scientists who fail to report findings, or publish distorted versions may be responsible for widespread injuries to man and his economy…. Legislation is needed to make these scientists accountable for their actions…legislation that makes it a felony for scientists to make claims about scientific work that does not stand up to public scrutiny. When a scientist fails to fully disclose findings of his experiment, or makes claims, which are counter to his data he ought to be held accountable for his deception, just as others are whose action leads to losses and damages. It should be possible to inflict fines and jail sentences on scientists in responsible places through whose negligence, lack of candor or lying the public is brought to great harm.
Hear, Hear. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to enact such legislation. You might, however, consider holding it in order to avoid inhaling or ingesting any of the dozens of toxic pesticides, herbicides, stimulants and other chemicals being used with ever-escalating ferocity in the tragically short-sighted quest for bigger and quicker profits in the forest, animal and crop industries. Cancer is already epidemic in the land. The cancer mortality rate is soaring upward as more chemical contaminants are dispersed throughout our environment. One in four Americans currently develops cancer; soon it will be one in three and then (who can doubt it, the way things have been going?) one in two. Will it eventually be one in one?
The idea is far from preposterous given the current facts of life: a cancer establishment which jealously guards its vested interests, though those interests have failed us miserably; an increasingly irrational search for a cancer “cure’, which, if found, would presumably permit us to go on contaminating our environment and our bodies with “convenience” foods and chemicals; a studied ignorance of preventive leads which if pursued might reduce the profits of various large industries by discouraging the use or consumption of some of their products. Meanwhile, “the greatest industrial nation on the face of the earth” also has one of the world’s most formidable cancer rates, an infant mortality rate significantly higher than that of many “lesser” countries and life expectancies inferior to those of several other lands.
The “victory” against DDT has given many Americans a feeling of complacency about chemical carcinogens. In fact, however, many experts today regard DDT as less dangerous, though still very dangerous, indeed, than several pesticides and herbicides now enjoying widespread use. Given the enormous power of the chemical lobby and the political atmosphere described earlier by Dr. Sterling, the battle against these substances sometimes appears almost hopeless. Perhaps if there were a couple thousand more Ida Honorofs we’d have a fighting chance. (For starters you can subscribe to her newsletter, “Report to the Consumer,” $8 per year, P.O. Box 5449, Sherman Oaks, California 91403. But if you subscribe, don’t do so expecting what passes for “objectivity” these days. You’ll have to settle for the truth, sometimes couched in outraged hyperbole.)
An 86 % Reduction in Mule Deer Populations
Some further words on the chemical carcinogen issue: Dr. James Watson, the Nobel Prize winner, in a speech delivered at the dedication of the Seeley G. Mudd Building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975, observed that, “considering the vast, vast sums probably necessary, if very early detection is ever to be achieved on a national scale, we may find that it makes most sense to spend much of this money to see that known environmental carcinogens are kept away from the American public. But such a goal will bring the NCI [National Cancer Institute] into direct conflict with very powerful industrial lobbies, and at least when I was on the [National Cancer Advisory] Board (1972-1974) there was a noted reluctance for the NCI to take on any regulatory role.”
Recent developments in Washington produce no more hopeful a picture. Dr. Umberto Saffiotti, who for eight years was director of the NCI’s carcinogenesis program, recently quit in protest over lack of support for research in his department. The carcinogenesis program, he said in effect, was being spread perilously thin for the sake of “public visibility.” While top administrators sought to give the impression that more than ever was being done to ferret out carcinogens, in actual fact less and less of substance was being achieved. Quality was being sacrificed for the appearance of quantity.
Meanwhile, evidence continues to accumulate attesting to the great damage some of the pesticides and herbicides now in use can inflict. The breakdown products of some of these substances are even more dangerous than the intact substances themselves. Heat from the sun is all that it takes to break down some of these chemicals. Testimony in the Senate recently revealed that a herbicide like 2, 4-D, even before it degrades, can cause birth defects in most animals. When it breaks down into the chemical dioxin its teratogenic properties escalate enormously. An FDA biochemist has estimated dioxin to be 100,000 to a million times more potent a teratogen than the notorious Thalidomide.
Dr. Ralph K. Campbell, a county health officer in Montana, reports that the Montana Fish and Game department discovered that there was an 86 percent reduction in mule deer populations in areas where 2, 4, 5-T was used for brush control. “One researcher,” Dr. Campbell has noted, “stated that around 10 percent of 2, 4, 5-T has been converted to harmful dioxin by heat, and that purified 2, 4, 5-T contains one part per million — enough to be teratogenic… These ‘innocuous’ substances have been incriminated as the cause of primary liver cancer in Vietnamese, following defoliation during the war.”
“Acceptable Risk”: Acceptable to Whom?
Though EPA has not exactly bent over backward to protect us against the likes of dioxin, any inclination to move in that direction has been vigorously criticized by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, a group which eagerly advises the forestry and agricultural industries. The Council, which masquerades as an official, scientific body but is, in fact, nothing other than the public-relations and lobbying arm of the “agro-chemical” industry, persistently criticizes the EPA’s anemic carcinogenic standards as being much too tough. The Council issued a report in 1975 in which there appeared this glib and self-serving assertion: “In our world, exposure to carcinogens is inevitable. Humans and animals are constantly exposed to small quantities of naturally occuring carcinogenic substances. Some carcinogens are present in the air. Others are present in food, and some of these are essential to the continued existence of animal and human life.” The only “essential” example cited was “sex hormones,” which certainly are not carcinogenic except under abnormal conditions. Dr. Sterling observes: “It is unfortunate that this aggregation of individuals, by giving themselves an impressive name, have been successful in hiding their connections with industry and have been able to convince some forest services that their representation is a proper expression of scientific consensus.” The Council, among other things, has strenuously sought to convince forestry officials of the essential harmlessness, if not outright goodness, of dioxin, killer of mule deers, deformer of babies, inflicter of liver cancers.
The risks-versus-benefits of pesticides, herbicides, food additives, preservatives, stimulants and the like are bound to be argued for some time to come. Meanwhile the quality of our lives continues to deteriorate and, indeed, in the debate so far quality of life is seldom much of an issue, except insofar as the amount of (contaminated) food we have under our belts is accounted a parameter of “quality.” Russel W. Peterson, chairman of the President’s Council on Environment, pointed up the need to pay greater heed to human values when he addressed a gathering of toxicologists earlier this year.
Peterson recalled Dr. Frances Kelsey and the debt of gratitude the nation owes this courageous woman. It was Dr. Kelsey who refused to accept the idea of “acceptable risk” and singlehandedly stood in the way of Food and Drug Administration approval of the substance Thalidomide when it was introduced into this country. The ghastly birth defects it causes in humans had not yet surfaced in Europe where the drug had been in wide use, but effects in animals convinced Dr. Kelsey that it shouldn’t be approved here, despite the fact that her superiors at FDA disagreed with her. (Why didn’t FDA approve the drug over Dr. Kelsey’s objections? Almost certainly because those who wanted it approved at FDA feared that Dr. Kelsey might be right and that she wouldn’t hesitate to take her case to the public if the drug, once approved, caused problems. You sort out the situational morality of all this.)
“Thanks to her,” Peterson said, “an unknown number of American youngsters were spared birth deformities. How much is that worth. Ten dollars? A thousand dollars? A trillion dollars? Such considerations cannot be reduced to cost-benefit analysis…. Chemicals and processes can be replaced, but all the technology of modern man has yet to develop a substitute for the simple capacity to enjoy the love and affection of our family and our friends, the sights and sounds, the smells and tastes of our natural and man-made environment. No cost-benefit analysis can take into account the pain and suffering endured by a cancer victim and his family and his friends…. It seems to me important that we keep these non-quantifiable values in mind…as we strive to improve our assessments of health risks.”
This is a remarkable address. In it, a government official seems to be pleading for a return to the primacy of some value other than the purely monetary.
Meanwhile, legislation which, if strenuously enforced and that is a sizeable “if,” could save as many as 200,000 lives a year, according to some informed estimates, has been locked up in committee for five years. The Toxic Substances Control Act would charge EPA with stringent testing of new chemicals before they are marketed and would invest EPA with sweeping new powers to ban chemicals which are reasonably suspected of causing birth defects, cancer and other ills. The legislation, introduced by Congressman Bob Eckhardt, Democrat of Texas, has been blocked in committee due to the efforts of the agro-chemical lobby.
Dr. Samuel Epstein, director of the Department of Environmental Health at Case Western Reserve University, is outraged over the inaction, calling “this despicable neglect of public safety…totally irresponsible. For five years the government has been sitting on the most important piece of lifesaving legislation in the history of environmental pollution. Chemicals are strongly suspected of causing at least 60 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. This legislation will therefore save at least 200,000 lives a year. Since 1971 when this bill was first introduced, apathetic politicians bowing to fierce opposition from the chemical industry have failed to show any positive determination to push this legislation through.”
Senator Warren Magnuson, Democrat of Washington, is similarly outraged over the delay, which he calls “shocking.” Russel Train, EPA chief, says he would welcome passage of the legislation. “It’s time we gave people some reason to believe that every time they breathe they are not taking their lives into their own hands. This legislation is of vital importance.”
Ford’s Swine-Flu Fumble
Advice Jerry Missed:
“Neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
– (St. Matthew, vii/6)
Rash, irresponsible, ill-advised, dangerous, perhaps even corrupt. Those are the only words suitable to describe President Ford’s plan to immunize every man, woman and child in the United States against a “swine-type strain of virus” which is “believed similar” to one which took half a million lives in the United States in 1918. The plan, approved by Congress, cannot be justified by any reasonable standard and will almost certainly do greater harm than good, very possibly taking more lives than it saves.
There is only the scantiest of evidence that a swine-flu epidemic is even remotely likely to occur.
Most of the deaths attributed to the 1918 outbreak are known to have been the result not of the virus itself but of secondary, bacterial complications, which are today routinely overwhelmed with antibiotics not available in 1918.
Even the discoverers of the “swine-flu threat” have acknowledged that the swine-flu virus is no more virulent and very possibly is less virulent than some recent strains of the flu, which we have coped with quite nicely without mass vaccinations.
Vaccination “science” is still primitive, and the mass immunization program Ford appears determined to go through with is rife with peril, as numerous experts and past experience attest.
And, yes, there is a possible cancer angle to all of this.
I’d no sooner written this summation when Ida Honorof, the consumer advocate celebrated in the first part of this Newsletter, sent me her assessment of “Ford’s flu folly.” She characterized the $135 million nationwide immunization program, designed to stick the needle to some 200 million individuals, as “the most brazen, obscene electioneering ploy” ever and added that it was “proposed by President Ford and his coterie of scientific hacks, fabricated to cause pure unadulterated panic and guarantee political capital, rammed through without consideration of people’s health and lives and approved by a band-wagon Congress” eager to make the nation’s “health” a bipartisan concern.
Do You Have Simian Virus in Your Body?
Prior to hearing from Honorof, who provided me with some new grist for my mill, I had dredged up some unpleasant truths about past immunization programs which, unfortunately, have been little noted and apparently all too soon forgotten by politicians, the medical establishment and the mainstream press. Here, briefly, are some of the things we should recall: the first polio vaccine, marketed in 1955, was composed of polio virus which was supposed to have been killed by formaldehyde. In some cases the virus was improperly treated, and the live virus caused almost 200 cases of paralytic polio and a number of deaths. Later it was revealed that millions of people who were immunized against polio were injected with a virus called SV40 which was contaminating the polio vaccine but was overlooked until 1961. This virus is known to cause cancer in hamsters. No one knows what its effects are in humans. And given the long latency of some of these viruses we may have to wait several more years before we can assume we’re safe. SV stands for “simian virus,” and, if you were immunized against polio before 1961, the chances aren’t bad that the little devil is crouched somewhere in your body today.
While you wait to see what SV40 has in mind, if anything, you might mull over an article in the February 24, 1972 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Virus Related to SV40 in Patients with Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy.” This is a fatal disease in which the myelin covering of the brain dissolves and the body’s immuno-response system is impaired, much as it is in leukemia and some other cancers. The study cited found a virus which either is SV40 or is closely related to SV40 in the brains of the victims of this disease.
There is, in fact, quite a lot of new data suggesting that when it comes to immunization we are tinkering with things we don’t adequately understand. At a recent American Cancer Society Seminar for Science Writers, Dr. Robert W. Simpson of Rutgers University observed that “immunization programs against flu, measles, mumps and polio may actually be seeding humans with RNA to form proviruses which will then become latent cells throughout the body…some of these latent proviruses could be ‘molecules in search of diseases’ which under proper conditions become activated and cause a variety of diseases [such as] rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosus, Parkinson’s disease and perhaps cancer.”
Honorof cites a number of articles and reports which shed useful light on the swine-flu program. Initial reports indicated there had been an outbreak of some 500 cases of swine flu at Fort Dix, N.J., Army base. Whether this report was willfully fabricated is unknown; it was, at any rate, eagerly seized upon by President Ford and some of his advisers, along with various of the large pharmaceutical concerns which saw the opportunity to grab a very large piece of business. When the air began to clear (and it’s still pretty murky), it became apparent that the Fort Dix report had been grossly exaggerated. There were actually only a dozen cases of flu at Fort Dix where the virus was identified as bearing some resemblance to the swine-flu virus. (It has not, mind you, ever been proved that it is the same virus.) To date only one person infected with the swine-flu-like virus has died.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, was among the first to point out that most of the 1918 deaths were due to bacterial complications. But he was told that the one death at Fort Dix was due to the flu virus and not to bacterial complications. What he wasn’t told, initially, he observes, was the fact that “this man was at the end of a long forced march during basic training and of the role this probably played in his death.”
Dr. Martin Goldfield, one of the doctors who discovered the Fort Dix “outbreak” has stated that the new flu virus cropped up during a period in which Fort Dix was under seige from the A-Victoria strain of flu virus (named for a virus isolated in Australia in 1975) and that “swine flu was unable to compete with A-Victoria at Ft. Dix. Swine flu is certainly no more virulent and possibly is less virulent than A-Victoria.”
The Division of Biologics Standards — A Kept Agency
But it was clear at this point that the Ford Administration did not want to be confused by the facts. It’s extravaganza on “behalf” of the public was off and running. Still, criticism continues to be heard, and perhaps it is not too much to hope that some of these voices of reason will still persuade sizeable segments of the population to forego this uncalled for assault on their persons. Dr. Wolfe has astutely observed that “if the Ford Administration were truly committed to prevention, not just in arguable cases such as foreign flu, why is it not paying attention to a real epidemic, one which claims 100,000 lives each year — occupational health diseases which are entirely preventable …. the important difference…is that foreign flu makes money for industry, while preventing occupational diseases cuts into corporate profits.”
Philip M. Boffey, writing in the May 14, 1976 issue of Science (“Anatomy of a Decision: How the Nation Declared War on Swine Flu”), observed that “once the ‘stop-the-flu’ bandwagon got rolling, it had too much momentum to be brought to a halt, and it was easier for advisers, in and out of the government, to vote yes rather than no…. scare tactics were used to sell the program.” Most voted yes despite personal convictions that the swine flu posed little or no threat. Boffey saw a number of motivating factors: Ford hopes to bolster his chances for re-election during the fall flu season, the Army saw an opportunity to divert attention from other health problems at Fort Dix, the vaccine manufacturers grasped at the chance to make huge profits very quickly.
The decision to go ahead, at any rate, appears to have had very little to do with genuine concern over the nation’s health. Experts at the U.S. Center for Disease Control pointedly avoided committing themselves to mass vaccination schemes. Yet, CDC administrators endorsed the program. The same thing happened at the Division of Biologics Standards, the government agency charged with the important task of monitoring the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. One of the DBS’s principal researchers, Dr. J. Anthony Morris, stated that the Fort Dix situation was no cause for alarm, that mass immunization was risky, offered no real hope of protection, in any event, and was totally unjustified. “If it were up to me,” he asserted, “I wouldn’t even start making the vaccine…. There is no clear-cut evidence that inactivated vaccines offer appreciable protection to the recipients.” Dr. Morris is one of the world’s outstanding authorities on vaccinations and viruses — yet his expert opinion is obviously being ignored by administrative “higher-ups.”
As far as DBS goes, sadly enough, this is business as usual. This agency has a particularly sorry record when it comes to scientific integrity. As Honorof has noted, Senator Abraham Ribicoff, in an investigation of DBS, “cited case after case where hazardous vaccines were released against the better judgment of noted and dedicated DBS scientists (e.g.: Dr. Bernice Eddy, discoverer of the polyoma virus, alerted DBS leadership that polio vaccine contained deadly live virus, capable of causing disease and death — which was released nonetheless over her protests, resulting in 10 known deaths and 192 cases of paralytic polio).” DBS appears almost to have become a division of the very pharmaceutical industry it is supposed to be monitoring. DBS relies upon industry to provide it with tests of the vaccines it is supposed to keep tabs on. As the Ribicoff report put it, “they are tested only by the people whose business it is to sell them…DBS suppressed or ignored scientific information…failed to ensure that vaccines are effective…harassed scientists whose research work adversely affected the vaccine market.”
The “Good Samaritans”: Uninsurable at Any Cost
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the swine-flu farce is the fact that the insurance companies, at this writing, are refusing to insure the manufacturers of the vaccines against possible damages arising from their use. Consider this headline in the May 3, 1976, issue of Business Insurance: “Swine Flu Vaccine Liabilities May Exterminate Suppliers.” Federal Insurance Co., principal underwriter for Merck & Co. and some of the other pharmaceutical concerns contracted by the government to produce the vaccine, told Business Insurance that it was “not convinced that Merck has had time to test the vaccine for side effects,” that it feared that potential unforeseen adverse reactions, and claims arising therefrom, could virtually “wipe out” several of the large drug companies and that the risks were therefore “uninsurable” at any cost. One Federal spokesman said he was particularly worried about side effects we know nothing about in 1976 that might surface in the year 2000 or later. Federal suggested that the government take responsibility.
Business Insurance reports that the companies involved have been negotiating with HEW “to devise contract language to insulate the drug manufacturers from liability,” asking for partial immunity against prosecution. You are being asked, then, to take into your body a vaccine in which the insurance companies — the place where the buck stops — have considerably less than perfect confidence, and consumer advocates like Honorof fear that a victimized public will be left holding the bag in the event of another immunization disaster.
“The problem of possible suits arising from the combined federal, state and local program is a real thing,” she writes. “The counties don’t want to assume any liability — the feds didn’t address the problem, and the states are exploring the issue, and doctors and pharmaceutical firms are turning to the Bible for immunity. They maintain they should be indemnified under the ‘Good Samaritan Law,’ one more attempt to rob us of our civil rights.”
The State of Alaska has enacted into law a bill specifically legalizing the use of Laetrile, the controversial cancer substance, in that state. This was an entirely reasonable, sensible thing to do; other states are bound to follow suit as the people express their will in defiance of distorted and, as I showed in my previous newsletter, occasionally corrupted establishment viewpoints.
CBS aired a “politics of cancer” special on June 22, directed and written by Judy Chrichton, which I account as excellent. Though the network did not scrutinize the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, both of which are highly political, as previous Newsletters attest, it did focus sharply on the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), all of which were shown to be falling down on the job when it comes to protecting workers and consumers from carcinogenic substances in the workplace, in our food, our air and our water. As discussed earlier in this Newsletter it’s been reliably estimated that some 100,000 lives are lost each year which could be saved if industry could be forced to clean up the work place where laborers breathe noxious fumes and dusts which often prove carcinogenic. It’s OSHA’s job to see that industry does this; industry, of course, resists in many instances because corrections cost money. When OSHA has sought to move vigorously ahead it has been restrained by President Ford who does not, CBS Reports indicated, want to lose industry backing. The documentary included footage of Ford addressing an industry gathering. Ford said: “Some of you, I’m sure, have experienced serious difficulty at the not always tender hands of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I know some of you would like to throw OSHA into the ocean [applause, loud cheers]. Under my authority as President, I have appointed a new director with specific instructions to deal with citizens as friends not as enemies.” Several critical new regulations to protect laborers have been held up under the Ford Administration though they had earlier been expected to be instituted without difficulty. CBS persuasively and responsibly documented the extensive human suffering, disease and death that have accrued as a result of political and economic decisions sought after by industry and delivered by the Ford Administration. While “going slow” may save Mr. Ford industry votes and dollars, the same policy is robbing other people — quite literally — of their lives.
As a preamble to the letter herein-above advertised it should be understood that a short time ago I addressed a letter to Henry Grunwald, Time managing editor, pointing out misrepresentations and outright inaccuracies in a Time Magazine item about the controversial cancer drug Laetrile. It was evident from Time’s short piece that the editors there had made no effort whatsoever to probe the depths of this highly complex controversy. Indeed, Time’s story read like a hand-out from the American Cancer Society, irresponsibly parroting statements which have been thoroughly discredited by more objective and more thoughtful sources. I objected to Time’s faulty characterizations of the Laetrile clinics (which the writer of the Time piece could not possibly have visited) and to the magazine’s sly characterization of Andrew McNaughton, one of Laetrile’s fiercest and most effective champions, as a “shadowy” figure — or worse. (In my view, Time’s characterization of McNaughton is an actionable libel — but that is between Mr. McNaughton and Time.) In any event, in an effort to be remedial, rather than merely critical, I enclosed in my letter to Mr. Grunwald a copy of my last Patterson Newsletter, which dealt in depth with the various Laetrile studies which have gone forward in diverse research centers, many of which reveal significant Laetrile efficacy.
In response to this effort I received only a short note from a man named Leon Jaroff, who was once science editor of Time and is now one of the magazine’s senior editors. The letter reveals, I believe, an attitude which readers of Time, and particularly readers of its science, medicine and technology sections would do well to note. This is Time Magazine’s total response to my detailed and carefully documented 24-page analysis of the Laetrile studies:
Re: your Laetrile letter to Mr. Grunwald.
As someone who has edited you, I can testify that you are a splendid writer, possessed of high intelligence and a delightful fellow. However, as someone who has “witnessed” faith healing, psychic surgery and a host of other nonexistent phenomena, you have totally undermined your credibility with me — and thus with all of Time’s technical-medical sections. In short, David, old friend, you believe in the tooth fairy and I do not. The difference is irreconcilable.
That letter, I suspect, pretty well speaks for itself. But there is one thing that I must say. If one has to stoop to an ad hominem attack it helps at least to make the attack factual. The fact is, however, that I’ve never “witnessed” nor even claimed to have witnessed faith healing, psychic surgery or any “host of other nonexistent phenomena.” I wrote an article once about a man who was described as a “psychic healer” who was carefully investigated by two researchers, one of whom is a professor of psychiatry at a noted university and the other a researcher at a leading orthodox cancer institute. I presented their experimental data and let the reader draw his own conclusions. That is the size of my experience with “nonexistent” phenomena. I wish now that Mr. Jaroff would address himself to the “existent” data I presented in my Laetrile newsletter.
Received in New York on June 28, 1976
David M. Rorvik, a freelance writer, is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner. He is studying the politics of cancer research in the United States and elsewhere. This article may be published with credit to Mr. Rorvik as a Fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. The views expressed by the author in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Foundation.