TSCA-geek contest: And the answer is …

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

The “identify-that-quote” contest I posted yesterday attracted quite a few responses, some as comments on the post, others in emails to me.  Most people were on the right track in thinking that it was said decades ago, though one guess was of someone in the last decade.  (I have to agree it does read like something EU Commissioner Margot Wallstrom might have said.)

If this were a popularity contest, the hands-down winner would be Rachel Carson.  Some said it must have come from Silent Spring, others from her 1963 Congressional testimony.

U.S. Presidents scored well, with Ford, Johnson and Nixon each getting at least one vote, and a couple more people suggesting their speechwriters or people close to them.

Several others got even warmer by zeroing in on the early days of EPA.  Inaugural EPA Administrator Bill Ruckelshaus got a couple votes.

There were three correct votes, however.  One was from the very first responder, within minutes of my posting.  He first emailed me, “I know, I know!”  I encouraged him to post a comment, which he did:  “Sounds like former EPA Administrator Russel Train, circa 1976!” said Daryl Ditz of the Center for International Environmental Law (a certified TSCA-geek for sure).

Daryl’s correct response was followed a few hours later by a mystery commenter who identified himself only as “RB.”  RB said “EPA Administrator Russel Train – 1976 – The year the Toxic Substance Control Act was passed.”

And then just a few hours ago, a third correct response, from Roger McFadden of Staples:  “Prophetic words of EPA Administrator Train in 1976 and now it is 2010. It is time to take action and stop the ‘chemical roulette’.”

While the first two winners don’t appear to know how to spell Russell, I’ll overlook that and offer congratulations to them and our other winner.  Russell Train served as the second EPA Administrator, serving under both Nixon and Ford from 1973 to 1977. 

The first citation of this quote I could find is in an article from the New York Times News Service that ran in the Lexington, NC Dispatch on May 27, 1976, a few months before the signing of the Toxic Substances Control Act by President Ford on October 11, apparently quoting from a speech Train gave at the National Press Club. 

The Pittsburgh Press on December 8, 1976 ran an article further quoting Train, presumably a further excerpt from the same speech:

“We not only don’t know whether what’s going on out there is dangerous – we don’t even know what’s going on out there.”   

Though uttered before its passage, I know of no better statement of the dual failings of TSCA.

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2 Comments

  1. Sonya Lunder
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    What a good idea for the blog! I had to look it up yesterday–was thinking someone like Rachel Carson, but clearly off-target.

  2. susanne frank
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Great contest, Richard. I’m going to work that quote into every thing I can!