Jeff Stier

When journalists give an award to one of their own, you’d think they’d honor reporting that rises above that of others in journalistic quality. But that isn’t what happened when The Deadline Club, the New York branch of the Society for Professional Journalists, gave its Daniel Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting to The New York Times’ Charles Duhigg. Duhigg was the author of the series “Toxic Waters.”

Bestowing that award on Duhigg should be an affront to the memory of Daniel Pearl, who lost his life investigating Islamic terrorists in the heart of darkness. Duhigg, on the other hand, echoed the campaign of radical environmental groups seeking to scare people about the safe use of pesticides. These groups aren’t true environmentalists, but instead try to instill fear in anyone who eats produce, drinks water, or breaths air.

Rush Limbaugh

Duhigg’s reign of toxic terror focused on alleged dangers in drinking water. Consider the headline from the Aug. 22, 2009 installment of his series, “Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass.” The award-winning journalist allowed himself to be used as a pawn in a campaign against a long-used and important agricultural chemical, atrazine. That levels of atrazine in drinking water are barely measurable didn’t deter him.

“Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems,” Duhigg wrote. Especially in the Midwest, he found some spikes of atrazine concentration above the regulatory limit.

Duhigg also noted implied and overt allegations of reproductive abnormalities. However, those data come from frog studies that have been roundly dismissed by the scientific bodies that have objectively reviewed them, including the Environmental Protection Agency – no fan of industry. And the federal guidelines, which limit the annual level of pesticide contamination, not the occasional spikes, were in fact not violated.

The fact is atrazine has been safely and extensively used for more than 50 years to increase corn yields and reduce the need for other pesticides.


Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and directs its Risk Analysis Division. You can follow him on Twitter at @JeffAStier.