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Jewish World Review May 28, 1999 /13 Sivan 5759

David Corn

David Corn
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It’s in The Water

(JWR) ---- (
AS ONE OF THE presidential candidates mandated by law to exploit the Columbine High School murders, religious rightist Gary Bauer has whacked away at moviemakers, accusing them of brainwashing kids with violent imagery.

“There’s a whole bunch of folks in Hollywood laughing all the way to the bank with money they’ve made from pollution...” he huffed. “It’s just as sure pollution as a big corporation dumping chemicals into some river.”

Bauer, with his reference to rivers, was onto something. As reported in Rachel’s Environment and Health Weekly, a newsletter produced by the Annapolis-based Environmental Research Foundation, for 25 years tens of millions of Americans in hundreds of localities have been drinking tap water contaminated with low levels of insecticides, weed killers and artificial fertilizers, and a group of biologists and medical researchers at the University of Wisconsin has completed a five-year study showing that when mice were exposed to a combination of these chemicals, they experienced measurable changes in their thyroid hormone levels.

What has this to do with violence in schools? In humans, irritability and aggressive behavior have been linked to fluctuations in thyroid hormone levels. Indeed, the mice exposed to low-level mixtures of these chemicals became more aggressive.

(Government scientists have tested these substances individually—mainly looking for signs of cancer—and have discovered no problems.)

A connection between pollution and violence is not so far-fetched. A 1998 study of preschool children in Mexico detected a decline in mental ability and a rise in aggressive behavior among kids exposed to pesticides.

“Because of recent violence in small cities and towns (such as Littleton, Colorado, Laramie, Wyoming, and Jasper, Texas),” notes the newsletter (, “this is a time when Americans are searching for the causes of violence in their society... No one seems to be asking whether pesticides, fertilizers and toxic metals are affecting our young people’s mental capacity, emotional balance, and social adjustment.”

There may not be enough scientific evidence to yank out the metal detectors at schools and put in water filtration systems. But those who cry out for more school prayer and less Marilyn Manson should also demand more research on this front.

Maybe we are what we drink more than we are what we watch.

JWR contributor David Corn, Washington Editor of The Nation, writes the "Loyal Opposition" column for The New York Press.


05/26/99: Pistol-Whipped
05/20/99: Combat Pay
05/19/99: Meet the New Boss
05/14/99: A 37-Year Losing Streak
05/12/99: Funds Before Guns
05/07/99: Missing In Action
05/05/99: Gun Shy
04/30/99: A Flyover War
04/28/99: Darwin Made Me Do It
04/16/99: Spin to Sell
04/16/99: No Controlling Authority
04/16/99: Damage Done
04/14/99: No Left Churn
04/12/99: Clinton’s Policy Bombs
04/09/99: A Cuban Frost
04/05/99: Coups and Fibbers
03/31/99: The Flynt Fizzle
03/24/99: Liddy and St. Steve
03/19/99: Hope in Hollywood
03/12/99: Clinton: The Novel
03/08/99: A Tale of Two Clintons
03/04/99: ..and Dumber
03/01/99: Post-Mortem Ad Nauseam
02/25/99: What’s Next?

©1999, David Corn