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WRITING FOR THE MEDIA
Sample Letters to the Editor

Check out some sample letters on:

  • Getting it straight on Alar
  • Debunking junk science
  • Rebutting bad PCB study


    Sample Letter to the Editor #1

    May 2, 1994

    The Editors
    The Wall Street Journal
    Dow Jones and Co., Inc.
    200 Liberty Street
    New York, NY 10281

    Dear Editors,

    Your April 27 editorial calling upon environmental and health groups to be accurate re the factuality of their claims is a legitimate standard. It is also one that could be applied to the editorial itself.

    Given your proper concern about factual accuracy, here are some facts to correct the inaccurate assertion of your opening sentence, which refers to "the discredited campaign to terrify the public about Alar and apples."

    Like many others in the media, the Journal has fallen for the expensive, highly effective disinformation campaign waged by the agricultural chemicals industry for the past five years.

    Here is what has happened since the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released its report about Alar and cancer risks to children in l989:

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after a thorough review of all available data reaffirmed that Alar and its metabolite UDMH were properly classified as human carcinogens.

    EPA reiterated that the use of Alar on food crops presented an "unreasonable" risk to human health, and that its use should remain prohibited.

    The same conclusion was reached by a scientific peer review committee convened by EPA to examine the issue.

    Last June the National Academy of Sciences released a report which reaffirmed the basic premise of the NRDC report, namely that infants and young children are more susceptible to cancer causing agents in food.

    Last September Federal Judge William Nielson (a Bush appointee) dismissed a lawsuit brought against NRDC and CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" challenging NRDC's report, which was publicized on "60 Minutes." Judge Nielson supported NRDC's central premise finding "The government is in grievous error when allowable exposures are calculated...without regard for the age at which exposures occur."

    I trust that these facts are authoritative enough for the Journal to set the record straight as to which side of the Alar issue is "discredited."

    Sincerely,

    Arlie Schardt
    Executive Director
    Environmental Media Services


    Sample Letter to the Editor #2

    The Seattle Times

    December 27, 1998, Sunday Final Edition

    SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. B9;

    LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

    LENGTH: 567 words

    HEADLINE: TOXIC CHEMICALS -- SAD NEW BREED

    BODY:

    One must wonder about an editorial that lumps the Washington Toxics Coalition, Greenpeace and the state Department of Ecology into a camp of "scare mongerers," and "wrong-headed radicals," while finding only deceased nukephile Gov. Dixy Lee Ray and a professor of soil chemistry at Washington (Agribiz) State University as her champions in ridiculing a laudable effort by the Department of Ecology to protect our health from the very worst-known chemical pollutants.

    However, let it be known that a quick phone call to professor Allan Felsot revealed that he had actually been misquoted. No reputable scientist would ever claim that "over half" of the Department of Ecology's list of 27 bioaccumulative chemicals of concern to be targeted for source reduction were found in nature.

    Nor would he imply that natural sources of such chemicals were anything but a tiny fraction of the known sources which have been, or remain, a cause for alarm.

    Yes, some of these 27 deadly chemicals are found in nature in minute quantities but that is hardly the point. The point of the Department of Ecology exercise is to eliminate the major source of these chemicals in the environment.

    These are the man-made sources which represent preventable, needless, self-imposed risks. As a society we are needlessly poisoning ourselves with excessive outputs of harmful chemicals.

    The characterization of the Department of Ecology as a radical group wanting to return us to the Stone Age is laughable to anyone who has monitored the cowardly track record of that agency in standing up to the state's corporate polluters. In fact the DOE list is one of the most uncontroversial chemical blacklists imaginable.

    As Felsot himself agreed, most of the list contains known killer chemicals (like DDT, PCBs, etc.) that have already been banned or phased out by regulatory action. Is Malkin arguing then that we should now reverse this small body of legislation controlling these chemicals and encourage them to be produced again? Or is she arguing against ever allowing "big government" to ever legislate to control chemicals again?

    The truth is that "big government" is so far behind the game of regulating the chemical industry that it will probably never catch up. In fact, of the more than 71,000 chemicals in commercial use today, with many hundreds more synthesized each year, only one-half of 1 percent have been significantly tested for risk to human health or the environment by any government agency.

    Yet when a paltry list of 27 of the absolute worst, well-documented killer chemicals known are targeted for reduction by a timid agency, Malkin finds this extremist and "technophobic."

    Perhaps Malkin is one of a sad new breed of Washingtonians, so enchanted by her plastic Starbucks mug that she does not bother to think about the effects of the chemicals which were released to produce it, or what will happen to those chemicals in it when it is disposed. Perhaps she is one that can enjoy the views of Puget Sound and care not for the tumorous fish under its sparkling surface.

    To such a person perhaps it will take actual untimely disease of a loved one to reach her. Only then might she realize that in the age of corporate dominance, a laissez-faire government does not give us liberty - it gives us death.

    Jim Puckett Director
    Asia Pacific Environmental Exchange Seattle


    Sample Letter to the Editor #3

    The Washington Times

    March 24, 1999, Wednesday

    COMMENTARY; EDITORIALS; LETTERS; Pg. A18; 292 words

    PCB study finds what it was supposed to find - nothing

    Your March 16 editorial "Fear no more," on the recent General Electric-funded study finding no correlation between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and cancer deaths, left out several key facts.

    Perhaps the researchers in the GE study found no link between PCBs only on cancer deaths, rather than on cancer incidence.

    Furthermore, the study looked at all workers, many of whom have had no known exposures to PCBs. The workers also had very limited exposure to the most toxic/carcinogenic PCB, Aroclor 1254. Its production was stopped in 1954, but it continues to affect humans and the environment. This is a clear example of not finding what you don't look for.

    This is not good science.

    Many other studies have shown a strong link between PCB exposure and cancer.

    The Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program and the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer all consider PCBs to be a "probable human carcinogen."

    Regardless of any debate over the connection between cancer and PCBs, there is solid scientific evidence that PCBs impede development. Their presence can have long-term effects on a developing fetus, leading to intellectual, behavioral, immune-system and reproductive impairment.

    In addition, children exposed in the womb, such as those in Japan and Taiwan following the rice-oil poisonings of the late 1960s, clearly have problems with skin, teeth, hair, nails, growth and puberty.

    This study was funded by GE, which faces steep litigation and clean-up costs from irresponsible PCB dumping in New York and Massachusetts.

    The study found exactly what is was designed to find: nothing.

    From: Jennifer Kelly, Program coordinator, Environmental Media Services, Washington


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