Watching the Detectors

Friday, January 25th, 2008

New York City is considering a law that would make it illegal to detect toxins without a permit. What kind of toxins? Well, just about all of them.

And it’s not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you "will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety," the first draft of the law states.

[...]

Dozens of university researchers, public-health professionals, and environmental lawyers sat in the crowd, horrified by the prospect that if this law passes, their work detecting and warning the public about airborne pollutants will become next to impossible. But Falkenrath pressed on, saying that unless the police can determine who gets to look for nasty stuff floating in the air, the city would be paralyzed by fear.

Never mind that such a false alarm triggered by faulty, privately-owned, unlicensed "detectors" has never happened. And the notion of forcing watchdog groups to get permission from the government before attempting to determine if what in many cases is government pollution is pretty farcical. Objectors rightly brought up Ground Zero, where the EPA and city officials assured rescue workers the air was safe, only to retract those assurances five years and several untimely deaths and serious illnesses later.

When the Environmental Protection Agency promised that the air surrounding Ground Zero was safe, Vallone said, independent testers proved that such assurances were utterly false. Would these groups really have to get a permit before they started working? "It’s a good question, and it has come up prior to this hearing," Falkenrath replied. "What I can assure you is that we will look extremely carefully at this issue of the independent groups, and get the opinion of the other city agencies on how to handle that, and craft an appropriate response." And if people use these detectors without a permit, Vallone asked, do we really have to put them in jail? Afraid so, Falkenrath answered.

Sometimes we need to be saved from the people who would save us.

 

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12 Responses to “Watching the Detectors”

  1. #1 |  Ochressandro | 

    Sounds like the small farmers who were forbidden by the FDA (after lobbying by the big beef producers, who didn’t want to bear the costs) from independently testing their beef for Mad Cow Disease prions, and then packaging their food to include it on the label.

  2. #2 |  LibertyPlease | 

    So, will this new process fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Truth?

  3. #3 |  Sarek | 

    I don’t think I agree with your take on this one, seems to me that there has been LOTS of trouble from “Never mind that such a false alarm triggered by faulty, privately-owned, unlicensed “detectors” has never happened. ” as in the rabid Antismokers and their “detectors” which “showed” levels of SHS in great enough “quantities” to be declared a “public Health Threat”.
    And used tirelessly in their pursuit of persecuting and “denormalizing” smokers.

    You might want to look at it from that slant before you decide this is a bad thing.

  4. #4 |  John | 

    Is that an Elvis Costello reference in the title?

  5. #5 |  parse | 

    This is nice. “It’s a good question, and it has come up prior to this hearing,” Falkenrath replied.

    So, it’s a good question, and it’s come up before–no doubt Falkenrath has an answer ready.

    “What I can assure you is that we will look extremely carefully at this issue of the independent groups, and get the opinion of the other city agencies on how to handle that, and craft an appropriate response.”

  6. #6 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    “will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety,”

    You mean like a whole city’s infrustructure having a cow over little neon signs associated with a cartoon?….or freaking out over runners using flour to mark that path of the run? Those kind of false alarms and anxiety? Wait…those were caused by the officials of those cities…nevermind.

  7. #7 |  Frank N Stein | 

    Wait, isn’t cigarette smoke a toxin? Which would mean you could perform a citizen’s arrest on anyone who complains about your second-hand smoke.

  8. #8 |  Andrew | 

    Isn’t it interesting that this story comes out the same day the LA Times reports on the failure of Rudy Giuliani’s company Bio-ONE, which, according to the Times article, “would swiftly eliminate deadly anthrax from a tabloid newspaper office” (yes, it was the National Enquirer)? Long story short: Bio-ONE decon’d the offices OK, but bogged down when it came to the photos (Elvis in his sepulchre, the Bat Boy folio, etc.) Bio-ONE basically threw up the job at that point and another company came in to clean the pics.
    IMO, if Rudy doesn’t gain any delegates in Florida, or at least finish better than Ron Paul, he’s toast. Which would suit me just fine.

  9. #9 |  Persona non grata | 

    This coming from the same city that gave the all clear with regard to airborne toxins and asbestos particulate after the “awakening” of 11Sept01.

    What a complete and utter charade!

  10. #10 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    If you are in danger, the state will inform you that you are in danger, citizen. DO YOU DOUBT THE STATE?

  11. #11 |  SaltedSlug | 

    I’m from the government, and I’m here to make sure you do not help yourself.

  12. #12 |  Frank | 

    This “law” would make CO detectors illegal without a permit.

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