Saturday, July 28, 2007

Elizabeth May Threatened With Agent Orange Lawsuit

Inconvenient truths and common knowledge now apparently libelous

Elizabeth May is standing by her comments on Agent Orange.

As well she should.

In a June 25 speech to the 15th Global Ecological Integrity group, May addressed a recent report on the health effects of Agent Orange use at CFB Gagetown.

"The so-called health risk assessment released on June 21st is not useful as a guide to governmental responsibilities to compensate workers and by-standers. It amounts to a predictable whitewash of a major health scandal," May announced.

May specifically took aim at Intrinsik Science Inc (formerly CANTOX Science Inc), the company that produced the report. "I was initially skeptical because CANTOX has a reputation of never finding a risk when conducting health risk assessments," she noted. "CANTOX found no risk in an area near the coke ovens site in Sydney that later was found to have arsenic levels high enough to be an acute health hazard. CANTOX ruled no risk to health in expanding the St John Irving refinery and no risk in adding caffeine to children’s soda pop."

"The fact that one of CANTOX’s founders, Dr. Len Ritter, was personally responsible as a civil servant more than twenty years ago for providing advice to the federal government that 2,4,5-T was safe when the US banned it, caused me some concern," May added. (Although May has subsequently released a correction noting that Ritter was not a CANTOX founder.)

Intrinsik's executive-director, Elliott Sigal, claims that May's comments have questioned Intrinsik's reputation. "We felt that in her current position as a federal party leader she shouldn’t make incorrect allegations about a Canadian company that was working in good faith for the (federal) government on an important project," Sigal insisted.

If May had done so by way of a mere ad hominem attack, perhaps the lawsuit that he and Instrinsik are threatening against her would have some merit.

As it stands, however, any report claiming that Agent Orange use at CFB Gagetown posed no risk to human health contradicts facts about Agent Orange that have become common knowledge.

Ever since its use in the Vietnam war, Agent Orange has been linked to various illnesses in those exposed to it. In particular, TCDD (dioxin), a component of Agent Orange has been known to cause fatal diseases in lab animals.

Agent Orange's links to various human illnesses is common knowledge to almost anyone who has taken a high school history class.

May also raises her fair share of techical concerns about the report itself. Among them is the lack of reference to TCDD, and the lack of attention to possible groundwater contamination, which is known to have happened in Vietnam.

If these oversights are indicative of the quality of Instrinsik's work, Sigal has better things to worry about than whether or not Elizabeth May is talking about it. Taking remedial action to improve the quality of Instrinsik's scientific studies would probably be a better solution. It would certainly be a good deal more effective in avoiding future criticisms.

Then again, suing people for telling the truth is probably a much simpler solution.

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