Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005
In which I devote 73 times more effort than it is worth into debunking an Independent Statistic of the Day.

EU Rota is unimpressed by the World Wildlife Foundation family blood testing survey that gave birth to last Friday's Independent "statistic of the day."

That was the statistic I got a bit strange about in this post here. Remember? The Independent said that 73 is the "average number of dangerous chemicals present in the blood of Europeans." It gave no indication of how dangerous a chemical has to be to be called "dangerous", whether "present" meant anything more than present in traces, and how it is demonstrated that these chemicals originated from computers, textiles and cosmetics rather than trees, organic food and wrestlers. The WWF survey did talk about these things, but for the Independent to omit the slightest mention of them converted that great big 73 into nothing more than a great big boo! to frighten the children.

And then I noticed that the dear old Indy couldn't even get its own meaningless frightening statistic right. It said that 73 was the average number of dangerous blahs found blah blah. Yet according to page 20 of the WWF document, of the 107 chemicals analysed for, 73 were detected in the whole survey. The median number was 29.

Back to EU Rota. He, she or they - it appears to be a group blog*, and the author of this post is known only as "GEA3" - took a look at the WWF survey and discovered the number of persons studied.

What does the WWF base their far-reaching 'scientific' study upon? Ahh, page 16 of the report:

Thirteen families from twelve countries around Europe – Belgium (2 families), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Sweden, Luxembourg – were sampled for blood during June of 2005. Each family sampled comprised three generations (the grandmother, the mother and one child) with a total of 39 family members sampled.

That's thirty-nine as in three-nine as in one less than forty.

I mean, I'm not saying that a careful study of thirty-nine people has no value to science, but it does seem a little skimpy as a basis from which to draw the rather large policy conclusions that Karl Wagner, the director of the WWF's DetoX campaign, does draw. He is quoted here as asking, "How much more evidence is needed before industry and European politicians accept that these hazardous chemicals cannot be adequately controlled?"

Quite a lot more, Herr Wagner.

Read the rest of EU Rota's post or I will boil your kidneys with 73 different hexes.

Finally, what's with the WWF being a "Foundation" nowadays? A mere Fund was good enough for Sir Peter Scott.

*GEA3 later emailed to say he's a he and there's only one of him. Warned me to stay away from the killer hand soap, too. A kindly thought.