The Danger In Doomsaying

Just how hazardous are dioxin, Alar and other chemicals? Skeptics call for a better method of measuring risk.

Marilyn Leistner doesn't believe scientists anymore -- at least not the ones who once denounced dioxin but now downplay its dangers. Leistner was the last mayor of Times Beach, Mo., the town of 2,400 that the U.S. government evacuated and closed down in 1982 because it was contaminated with dioxin, considered by many to be one of the most fearsome of chemicals. The mayor saw dioxin's toxic effects all too clearly: the elderly forced out of their homes and into retirement centers, people so paranoid that every common illness was assumed to be dioxin poisoning, neighbors quarreling and even threatening to...

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