Brockovich, Erin Archives

Remember the "cancer cluster" that made Erin Brockovich famous? (And rich?)

By Michael Fumento

Erin Brockovich became "America's Sweetheart" because "she brought a corporation to its knees." As the story goes, the energy company PG&E was storing chromium 6, a cancer agent, in its on-site ponds but it leached into the wells of the nearby tiny desert town of Hinkley, Calif., to sue.

The suit blamed the chemical for dozens of symptoms, ranging from nosebleeds to breast cancer, Hodgkin's disease, miscarriages and spinal deterioration. In 1996 PG&E settled the case for $333 million.

Beauty fades; wickedness doesn't.

The problem, as I noted in my very first piece critical of Brockovich way back in 2000, is that "no one agent could possibly have caused more than a handful of the symptoms described. Chromium 6 in the water almost certainly didn't cause any of them. The Environmental Protection Agency does consider chromium 6 a human carcinogen. But it's linked only to cancer of the lung and of the septum. Further, as one might guess from these two cancers, it's a carcinogen only when inhaled."

Nevertheless, PG&E foolishly submitted to arbitration rather than going to court, Brockovich's firm won a massive $333 million, of which Brockovich in her bonus alone received $2 million.

But were the people of Hinkley actually any more likely to have cancer than would be expected in a town that size of that demographic population?

In light of the trouble Brockovich is currently stirring up in Acreage, Florida, in which she's rounding up plaintiffs for class action suits regarding an alleged childhood cancer cluster, I decided to check into the final verdict on cancer in Hinkley. Here's what I found.

California's "Desert Sierra Cancer Surveillance Program staff reviewed cancer cases that had been diagnosed among residents of the census tract where Hinkley is located." Conclusion: "Our assessment did not identify any excess in the number of new cancer cases in Hinkley between 1988 and 1993 that is greater than the level anticipated for sampling error." Moreover, "Recently, we extended our assessment of cancer in the census tract encompassing Hinkley through 1998." Conclusion: the did "not identify an excess in the number of new cancer cases in the area assessed."

Conclusion: Brockovich's original claim to fame was built on a fabrication. And it still is.

I've got a list on my Web site of more of my extensive writings on this wicked fraud of a woman.

Two of the greatest compliments I've received: When Gen. David Petraeus said of my "The New Band of Brothers" article from Iraq: "Great stuff with a great unit in a very tough neighborhood!" and when Australia's "60 Minutes" asked Brockovich about me and she screeched: "I hate him!"

March 18, 2010 09:01 AM  ·  Permalink

A disease cluster scare implodes; a new one is born

By Michael Fumento

Yesterday I wrote that a scare over a scleroderma cluster in South Boston had been resolved when the state department of health found no links to anything manmade, but rather than the sufferers were simply genetically more inclined to developing the disease.

But now Florida activists have just goaded the Palm Beach County Health Department into declaring a cluster of child cancer cases in the town of Acreage. Residents are alternately angered and terrified, including by none other than uber-activist Erin Brockovich herself, about whose cold-blooded antics I've published 15 articles. She came to town to express her concern and outrage, with two law firms in tow handing out contracts labeled "Contingency Fee Agreement & Power of Attorney."

Implicated have been radioactive well water, pesticides, solvents, jet fuel, and other causes. Everything but coincidence, as health officials obviously believe. Meanwhile, in addition to being terrified over their kids' health, people in the town have found they can't move if they want to because their property values have collapsed.

Implicated have been pesticides, solvents, radium, jet fuel, and other causes. Everything but coincidence, as health officials obviously believe.

I found out about this because I received an email today that read in part:

I wrote to you earlier because Erin Brockovich was starting hysteria and pressing the government to call our community a cancer cluster. Now, with skewed population numbers and a number as small as three, the health officials have deemed us a pediatric cancer cluster. Now people are calling to condemn this community with 12,000 CHILDREN (not total). People are scared and trying to blame whatever and whoever.

An unofficial poll by a newspaper online website found two-thirds of those voting thought Brocko was only out for personal gain (Oh, such ingrates!), and some comments by townspeople seemed to reflect, shall we say, a certain degree of anger. Here's one.

The people of the Acreage have alot to lose, cant move, cant refi, cant sell, cant do anything with your property but still pay taxes and your mortgage for how ever many years this takes.

No mortgage company is going to work with anybody out here till this is over how long do you figure it will take? 5 years? 10 years? And while were all sitting on worthless property we will have the added cost of city water to be stuck with..

And while this is going on we all live on dead ground good for nothing... Show me the proof!!! You can't there is none!!!!

I dunno. Call me insensitive. But I don't think doing this to people is right.

February 8, 2010 07:55 PM  ·  Permalink

Denial of Harm Equals Big Tobacco

By Michael Fumento

Under the subject line of "Hexavaent Chromium" (it's "hexavalent") Nancy [omitted] wrote:

Dear Mr.Fumento,

I am researching the P G & E/Hinkley, California case and have read some of your writings. As long as you short cut and use information provided by P G & E scientists, physicians and their reports to back your 'facts' you will always come out suspect. For years, the tobacco industry claimed through their scientist and doctors that smoking in no way caused cancer, we now know they were wrong. Surveys have been done that have indicated that for enough money there are many doctors and scientists who will 'sell' themselves and print whatever is wanted by those providing the money.

An interested law student

My response:

I didn't use any information from PG & E scientists. Consult my articles on my website. And please, stop with the tobacco comparisons. Just because somebody somewhere says their product isn't as dangerous as others claim it is doesn't make them another BIG TOBACCO. I insist that reading my material won't make you go blind. Does that put me on par with the makers of Camel cigarettes?

Well, maybe you shouldn't answer that.

Also, please learn how to use quotation marks if you are to join the legions of tort lawyers.

May 10, 2009 12:34 PM  ·  Permalink