Tag Archives: priorities

Regulation of the Day 90: The National Poultry Improvement Plan

Having solved all the nation’s other problems, the federal government has a National Poultry Improvement Plan. Run in conjunction with state governments, “The main objective of this program is to use new diagnostic technology to effectively improve poultry and poultry products throughout the United States.”

Because the government puts so much time and attention into issues like chicken health, it is neglecting its core duty: protecting citizens from attack. Last week’s terrorist attack should be a wake-up call for the government to drop non-essential tasks and concentrate on what it should be doing.

Cell Phones, Cancer, and Certainty

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CNN reports: “Last summer, Dr. Ronald Herberman, then director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, issued a warning to about 3,000 faculty and staff, listing steps to avoid harmful electromagnetic radiation from cell phones.”

“Electromagnetic radiation” is a fancy way of saying light waves.

Herberman has been on his cell phone crusade for a while now; I diagnosed him with a severe case of The Certainty last year.

Still, let’s assume he’s right that cell phones cause tumors. What actions should be taken? I present the following CDC data on leading causes of death as a way to guide our priorities:

Heart disease: 631,636
Cancer: 559,888
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 137,119
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,583
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 121,599
Diabetes: 72,449
Alzheimer’s disease: 72,432
Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,326
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,344
Septicemia: 34,234

Deaths from cancer attributable to cell phone use? Zero. There is an important lesson to be learned here.

Think of it like this: every dollar and every hour of researchers’ time spent investigating cancer risks from cell phones is money and time not spent curing heart disease. Or cancer itself. Or stroke. These “big three” combine to end more than a million lives each and every year.

Which is a better use of limited research resources? Herberman, by bringing funding and attention to a non-issue, is quite possibly costing lives that could otherwise be saved.

The Certainty has very high costs. In Herberman’s case,  measurable in lives.

Keeping Priorities Straight

vanuatu
Bjørn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus, brings some much-needed common sense to the global warming debate. Reporting from Vanuatu, he finds that many of the locals haven’t even heard of global warming.

Torethy Frank is one of them. She has other priorities, such as escaping crushing poverty: “Torethy and her family of six live in a small house made of concrete and brick with no running water. As a toilet, they use a hole dug in the ground. They have no shower and there is no fixed electricity supply.”

You can see why the two degrees of projected warming over the next century are not at the top of her “problems to solve” list. I would argue that ending global poverty should be a little higher on ours. Certainly higher than global warming.