Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Elizabeth Whelan: President, American Council on Science and Health

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Since she cofounded the nonprofit ACSH in 1978, Whelan, a 61-year-old New Yorker with graduate degrees from Yale and Harvard, has wielded the authority of the organization's 350 affiliated scientists, doctors, and policy advisers to claim that PCBs don't cause cancer, that mercury levels in seafood are safe, and that lead poisoning in children is at tolerable levels. To sway public policy, the group spreads its message in thousands of articles and editorials in major newspapers and other media.

Whelan isn't always so predictable, though: She's consistently criticized the tobacco industry, publicizing the links between smoking and cancer through books, editorials, and a Web site aimed at teenagers ( Still, her group remains much favored by industry. The ACSH stopped publishing lists of its funders in 1991, but according to ACSH associate director Jeff Stier, the bulk of its money comes from foundations and corporations.

SOUND BITE: "Whelan testifies on the Hill a lot," says David Helvarg, author of The War Against the Greens, a 1994 book about the counter-enviro movement. "When Republicans use the term 'sound science,' they're looking for 'industry science,' and she provides that."

NEXT UP: America's War on 'Carcinogens,' edited by Whelan and published by ACSH earlier this year, highlights the organization's big fight for 2005: debunking the use of animal tests as the sole way to establish a link between synthetic chemicals and cancer in humans. Mice are not "little men," Whelan says, and giving them large doses of toxins does not predict what those chemicals will do to people.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Open a World of Adventure

Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.

Thank you!