Andy Igrejas isn’t a scientist—he’s a professional environmental lobbyist constantly working to scare the public about the safety of nearly every item in their homes.
Igrejas has been a registered lobbyist for nearly two decades and currently serves as the director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF), an alarmist advocacy coalition that rails against what it sees as the hidden menace of chemicals in consumer products. He is responsible for bringing more publicity to the coalition’s endeavors, specifically its efforts to raise awareness about the dangers that come with the use of chemicals in consumer products.
Back when he was still known as Fernando, Igrejas was a registered lobbyist in California, he joined the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in opposition to a 1996 California Proposition to limit campaign contributions from individuals and groups and prohibit lobbyists from making campaign contributions.
Igrejas also headed the Environmental Health Program at the National Environmental Trust, which was founded as a public relations firm “Environmental Strategies,” “to assist environmental organizations to conduct public education campaigns on priority national environmental issues.”
The firm was formed to mobilize and shape public opinion on environmental issues. The organization was founded by environmental heavyweights such as Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Donald Ross of the Rockefeller Family Fund, and was given start-up funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts through the liberal donor dark money, pass-through foundation, the Tides Foundation. The firm worked with Fenton Communications—the firm behind the NRDC’s baseless media scare campaign about Alar on apples.
After nearly a decade with the National Environmental Trust and Pew, Igrejas moved on to his current position with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families—a coalition that includes member groups that continue to promote the dangerous myth that vaccines are linked to autism. While everyone wants to be protected from dangerous chemicals, Igrejas and his organization make reasonable, scientific inquiry into how this protection should best take place more difficult by using alarmism and bad science to make their points.
Irresponsible and Immoral Alarmism
In his role as leader of SCHF, Igrejas uses scare tactics to drum up publicity for his campaigns. He leverages the understandable health fears that many people hold in order to make the case that chemicals in consumer products are at the root of many scary and mysterious diseases. For example, he and his organization claim that Bisphenol A – a chemical found in the parts per billion level in various consumer products – is responsible for everything from cancer to chromosomal abnormalities to erectile dysfunction. Yet rigorous reviews of peer-reviewed scientific research from the European Food Safety Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have found the chemical poses no health risk to consumers—facts completely absent from the group’s fact sheet on BPA.
He also exploits parental fear of how best to protect their children to make his case. He frequently references horror stories of development problems, attention-deficit disorder, and the autism as being caused by chemical use without adequate science to back up his claims. His use of so-called “stroller brigades,” which consist of famous mothers like Jessica Alba, scare parents into fearing every day household products.
Reliance on Junk Science
What’s worse is that Igrejas’s alarmism is based on flawed science. His organization’s modus operandi is to trump up small scale studies that pump rats full of millions of times the levels of chemicals that humans are exposed to and point to their health effects as suggestive of the impacts in humans as a whole. Igrejas’s group often uses the vague “animal experiments show” to justify linking chemicals to disease.
Henry I. Miller, MS, MD, and Hoover Institution Fellow explains the junk science experiments on which Igrejas and his organization rely:
The results of experiments often cannot be replicated, and similar experiments by different researchers often yield conflicting results. There are a number of reasons for these inconsistencies, including problems with experimental design, shoddy statistical methodology, selective exclusion of data points, misleading or exaggerated conclusions, and a failure to discriminate between association and causation. Worst of all is the publication of the results of “advocacy research” which is actually designed to give a false, preordained result in order to provide propaganda that can be cited by activists long after the findings have been discredited.
While Igrejas and his organization are not technically wrong when they say that these chemicals can have negative effects on your health, they plainly misunderstand the nuance that it’s the amount of a chemical ingested that determines its health effects. In other words, the dose makes the poison. There is no element on earth that isn’t dangerous in high enough doses. But, the best science has consistently found that at current levels, the chemicals that Igrejas rails against are not harmful.
Igrejas isn’t a scientist. But how do real scientists react respond to parents who want to do everything possible to protect their children from potential maladies by eliminating every chemical in the house? Dr. Jerome A. Paulson, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, says succinctly, “there isn’t the science there to back it up.”