Are Seattle-Area Babies Dying Because Of
June 22, 2011
A recent report from Al Jazeera English presented
troubling sets of data about life since the Fukushima
meltdown in Japan earlier this year. One of the most
shocking details: A combined 35 percent increase in
infant-mortality rates in several Northwest cities,
Now, a writer with Scientific American is taking that
report to task. Michael Moyer writes that Al Jazeera
reported infant-mortality for just eight cities: San Jose,
Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland,
Seattle, and Boise. And the report cited, authored by Doctor
Janette Sherman and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, only used
four weeks of data to establish a pre-Fukishima trend.
And that just doesn’t add up, according to Moyer:
Let’s first consider the data that the authors left out of
their analysis. It’s hard to understand why the authors
stopped at these eight cities. Why include Boise but not
Tacoma? Or Spokane? Both have about the same size population
as Boise, they’re closer to Japan, and the CDC includes data
from Tacoma and Spokane in the weekly reports.
More important, why did the authors choose to use only
the four weeks preceding the Fukushima disaster? Here is
where we begin to pick up a whiff of data fixing.
Moyer examined a more comprehensive data set from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and came up with
a different story. He plotted the 2011 infant-mortality
rates in the eight cities in question, and found there
hasn’t been an over-all spike.
On the contrary, the data shows a slight decline.
Moyer wrote: Only by explicitly excluding data from
January and February were Sherman and Mangano able to froth
up their specious statistical scaremongering.
This is not to say that the radiation from Fukushima
is not dangerous (it is), nor that we shouldn’t closely
monitor its potential to spread (we should). But picking
only the data that suits your analysis isn’t science—it’s
politics. Beware those who would confuse the latter with the