Cancer in Fort Chipewyan

Last month the "Fort Chip whistleblower" scandal came to a fizzle when a medical report indicates that the cancer levels there are elevated, but not to a statistically significant amount.

Of course, that doens't mean that the CBC and the residents Indians who stand to collect big government settlements if cancer is proven cannot still run their mouth...

Local people believe the oilsands developments located upstream from their community have caused higher-than-normal cancer rates in the community.

However, the methods used by the study also attracted controversy.

In November, community members rejected the findings of the study before they were released, because they felt researchers didn't spend enough time talking to people who live in Fort Chipewyan."

So imagine my surprise earlier this week when I stumbled across the wikipedia page to The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. To wit, just because a Texan paints a target around all the holes he has just shot in the side of a barn doesn't make him a sharpshooter. [ha, and half of your dumb readers probably thought it had something to do with George Bush! -ed].

But further down the page we read this:

Related logical fallacies

Another parallel in this story is the Yes, Minister episode "The Greasy Pole". In it, a proposed chemical plant was protested by residents because of health concerns over meta-dioxin (dioxin being what blew up in Italy in the 1970s). A government researcher was publishing a massive study clearing the substance as fully safe when Hacker convinced him to sow seeds of discontent. How did a fellow researcher explain the trick? The media only report on the conclusion, so just add in some weasal words about how dangerous side effects cannot be ruled out and more in depth studies over longer time periods are necessary. Hence this bit in the CBC story:
However, the possibility the increase is due to an increased risk in the community "cannot be ruled out," the report says, and it recommends analyzing other risk factors such as lifestyle, family history and occupational and environmental exposures.

There's not much to see here: just a bunch of Indians wanting money, government researchers covering their tail for political reasons, and CBC reporters convinced that economic development is killing us all and forget what the studies actually say.