To the Editor:
I thank David Schoenbrod for the riveting story of his break with the ranks of the liberal regulatory state [“Confessions of an Ex-Elitist,” November 1999]. Although I agree that the delegation of government to regulatory agencies and courts results in usurpation of democracy, I believe he is wrong about the importance of health risks in explaining the success of environmentalism.
Mr. Schoenbrod states that one consequence of the political pressure exerted by industries to delay implementation of the Clean Air Act was that “the bulk of the lead was left in gasoline for many additional years and millions of children were harmed.” But even though lead concentrations in the air dropped by 97 percent from 1970 to 1990, there has been no significant improvement in the childhood maladies—asthma, lower IQ scores and school achievement—purported to result from high lead concentrations in the air.
What appears to get the public behind measures like the Clean Air Act is aesthetics, not a reduction in threats to health. Americans want to preserve ocean and mountain views around their homes and to eliminate any perceived taint on property values from nearby but benign “toxic waste sites.” Environmental regulation is about wealth protection, not health protection—a fact that is seemingly not apparent to an ex-liberal like Mr. Schoenbrod.
Wayne c. Lusvardi
To the Editor:
It was fascinating to read about David Schoenbrod’s family history along with his own experiences. Because my own parents and grandparents passed away when I was young, I felt jealous of his paternal reminiscences. As for his professional setbacks, all I can say is that I felt his frustrations. I cannot recall ever having read an article like his—one I did not want to end.
Harold I. Sussman
New York City
To the Editor:
David Schoenbrod writes:
Contrary to Wayne Lusvardi’s contentions, no one claims that lead causes asthma, but lead in gasoline did harm the intelligence of children.
Numerous studies have concluded that an increase of lead levels in young children from ten to twenty micrograms per deciliter of blood produces a loss of from two to three IQ points. As lead was taken out of gasoline, the mean lead levels in American children declined from sixteen to three micrograms, about the same as for children in the Himalayas.
Mr. Lusvardi is correct in his general point that concern for health fails fully to explain the success of puritanical environmentalism. But in his eagerness to blame the rich, he is looking in the wrong direction. In regulating ozone (which it believes causes asthma), the Environmental Protection Agency refused to consider that ozone also helps to protect health by screening us from cancer-causing solar rays. Concerns about health took second place to augmenting the agency’s power.
I thank Harold I. Sussman for his generous comments.
In William F. Buckley, Jr.’s contribution to the symposium, “American Power—For What?” [January], the term a fortiori, which occurs once on page 23 and again on page 24, should in each instance read a posteriori—Ed.