On newsstands now is the April 2014 issue of Popular Mechanics. There you'll find a feature (yet to be published online) titled, "Junk Science." In it, Science Editor Sarah Fecht investigates a claim that Mangano and Janette Sherman made in 2012 that 14,000 American deaths could be linked to fallout from Fukushima Daiichi.
Interviewed for the piece is Dr. Robert Emery of the University of Texas at Houston:
"I read the thing and was taken aback," says Emery, who has a doctorate in public health and is a licensed health physicist. The study implied fallout from Fukushima caused 484 deaths in Houston. If there had been radiation-related deaths in Texas, Emery was well-positioned to know about them. Following the disaster in Japan, he supervised the effort to set up extra air-sampling stations and Geiger counters throughout Houston to monitor any increase in radioactivity; elevated levels were not found.Emery also told Fecht: "I think these individuals have a bias toward what they believe is happening ... They're drawing conclusions that support that bias. Have you ever heard of the Texas sharpshooter? It's where a guy goes out in the field, shoots bullet holes in a barn and then paints the target around the bullet holes."
Popular Mechanics isn't the first media outlet to find flaws in Mangano's research. On two separate occasions, Mike Moyer of Scientific American criticized Mangano's work calling it, "sloppy and agenda-driven." In a June 2011 blog post, Moyer concluded that Mangano's "statistical claims are critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths."
Reporting on Mangano's claims has also come under intense scrutiny by Reporting on Health, a project of the USC-Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. A former editor there, Barbara Ostrov, warned journalists to "proceed with caution," when reporting Mangano's claims, as they normally appear in obscure medical journals. Later, William Heisel warned reporters to "resist the siren song of the fear monger," and "demand details," from activists like Mangano.
So what's the solution? Writes Fecht, "Ultimately, junk science can be dispelled only if individuals think like scientists; Evaluate all the evidence and try to disprove your own preconceptions."