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THINKING FAST AND SLOW OMNILORE Ronnie Lemmi – Feb. 2013.

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1 THINKING FAST AND SLOW OMNILORE Ronnie Lemmi – Feb. 2013

2 Alar scare as an example of the availability cascade  Definitions  Definition of Availability - The availability heuristic is a process of judging frequency by the ease with which instances come to mind:  Availability and effect – A dramatic event that temporarily increases the availability of its category  Our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.

3 Availability cascade A self sustaining chain of events which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large scale government action. Sometimes, a media story about a risk catches the attention of a segment of the public, which becomes aroused and worried. This emotional reaction becomes a story in itself, prompting additional coverage in the media, which in turn produces greater concern and involvement. This cycle is sometimes sped along deliberately by “availability entrepreneurs”, individuals or organizations who work to ensure a continuous flow of worrying news.

4 The true Alar story What you may have heard The Alar scare of 1989was a hoax based on junk science perpetrated by the Natural Resource Defense Council, Consumer’s Union, 60 minutes on CBS, and the actress Meryl Streep Or Altar was in fact a safe chemical that was absolutely essential for the health of the nation’s apple industry, and that it was forced from the market by environmental and consumer extremists at a cost to the industry of at least $100 million

5 Alar scare 1989  This chemical was sprayed on apples to regulate growth and improve appearance.  Scare began with press stories that the chemical consumed in gigantic doses caused cancerous tumors in rats and mice.  Stories frightened the public followed by more media coverage.  Apple products became objects of fear.  FDA banned the drug. Subsequent research confirmed that it might pose a very small risk as a carcinogen.

6 Between 1945 – 1966 the USDA licensed nearly 60,000 individual pesticides. In 1966, when Alar entered the market the Uniroyal Corporation had received a government license to sell it for use on apples and peanuts. Alar is not a pesticide as many mistakenly call It. It is a growth regulator, the “stop drop” wonder chemical. It doesn’t kill pests but it prevents fruit from dropping to the ground too early. As a consequence, Alar provided economic benefits to apple growers who could harvest their crop over longer period, easing labor issues. The benefit to consumers was a cosmetically enhanced apple that stayed crunchier a bit longer. History of the use of Alar

7  Alar was manufactured by mixing succinic anhydride (daminozide)with UDMH (1,1,dimethylhydrazine) a toxic component of rocket fuel. In tests of carcinogenicity UDHM proves to be about 1000 times as powerful as Alar.  Concerns about the health impact of Alar began in 1973  The US Environmental Protection Agency opened an investigation of Alar’s hazards in 1980  In 1984, the EPA re-opened it’s investigation, concluding in 1985 that both Alar and UDMH were probable human carcinogens.

8  In 1984, The EPA announced that it was investigating the lifetime cancer risks among people eating apples and peanuts sprayed with Alar. Conclusion of the study : It might be causing as many as 100 cancers per million people exposed to it in their diet for a lifetime.  The official threshold for concern within EPA at that time was one cancer in a million exposed people, so Alar was thought to create a human health hazard at least 100 times as great as the agency considered acceptable  By 1989 the states of Massachusetts and New York had banned the chemical and the American Academy of Pediatrics was urging a similar ban at the federal level.

9 CBS-TV “60 Minutes”  On Feb 28, 1989, CBS-TV “60 minutes” aired an expose titled “A is for Apple” which became the beginning in a carefully planned publicity campaign developed for the Natural Resources Defense Council. (NDRC)  It chose the firm Fenton Communications, which developed and helped distribute public service announcements featuring Meryl Streep, who warned that Alar had been detected in apple juice bottled for children.

10 Science of Availability  How a PR firm executed the Alar scare  In October 1988 NRDC (Natural Resources Defense counsel) hired Fenton communications to undertake the media campaign for its report.  The goal was to create so many repetitions of NRDC’s message that average American consumers could not avoid hearing it.

11 Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits  In October 1988 Fenton Communications released the media campaign report. The report calculated children’s actual exposure levels to carcinogenic and neurotoxic pesticides.  The campaign was based on the NRCD’s report “Intolerable risk; pesticides in our children’s food”  Meryl Streep read the study and agreed to serve as spokesperson for it.  It was agreed that one week after the study’s release, Streep and other prominent citizens would announce the formation of NRDC’s new project, Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits.

12  On Feb. 26, 1989, CBS-TV 60 minutes broke the story to an audience of 40 million viewers.  Titled “A is for Apple” which became the beginning of a carefully planned publicity campaign developed for the Natural Resources Defense counsel

13 The apple industry struck back.  A major corporate PR firm Hill & Knowlton was hired for $700,000 by the apple growers which also put forward $2 million dollar advertising budget  Apple growers in the state of Washington filed a libel lawsuit against CBS. Natural Resource Defense Counsel and Fenton Communications claiming that the “scare” had cost them $100 million and sent orchards into bankruptcy  The apple industry abandoned the use of Alar, and the market for apples quickly rebounded. In 5 years, the grower’s profits were 50% higher than they had been at the time of the 60 minutes broadcast.

14  Once Alar was removed from the market, the 60 minutes story about cancer risks to children was replaced with stories of apple growers driven into bankruptcy.  The Alar counter attack was led by Elisabeth Whelan and ACSH (American Council on Science and Health) ). In its version Alar was a beneficial and safe chemical that had been forced off the marker by a deliberate scare campaign.

15  The supreme Court upheld without comment an appeals court decision dismissing a $250 million class-action suit filed against 60 minutes by a group of Washington state apple grower, alleging the show falsely disparaged their product.  The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1993 confirmed the central message of the Alar case, which is that infants and young children need greater protection from pesticides.  The NSA called for an overhaul of regulatory procedures specifically to protect kids, finding that federal calculations for allowable levels do not account for: children’s increased consumption of fruit, for children’s lower body weight, or for their heightened sensitivity to toxic exposure.

16 Conclusions  All the evidence against Alar in 1973 was based on the findings of tumors in mice, while the same doses of chemical did not cause tumors in rats. The validity of the study was questioned.  Both the EPA and the Agency for Research on Cancer labeled Alar as a “probable carcinogen”.  In 1985 the EPA announced that it was planning to initiate a process that would result in banning Alar because it might be causing as many as 100 cancers per million people exposed to it in their diet for a life time.

17  The Consumer’s Union in its report on the Alar issue, noted that its own tests on apples showed lower risk than the EPA’s estimate – only 5 cancers per million instead of 100.  In 1989 CBS-TV “60 Minutes’’ aired an expose titled “A is for Apple” which became the beginning of a carefully planned publicity campaign developed for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  No studies have conclusively proven that Alar is carcinogenic to humans.  Alar was voluntarily removed from the market for use on food producing plants.  Alar continues to be used on plants that do not produce food.

18 THE END


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