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The murderous lie that refuses to die

While the Gulf oil spill has dragged on I've been waiting for an old chestnut to be dusted off by the media. Now that the news is plastered with images of birds covered in oil it's finally happened courtesy of the New York Times. We're informed that the brown pelican - at one time near extinction - is now besieged once again.

Pelicans, Back From Brink of Extinction, Face Oil Threat

Published: June 4, 2010

FORT JACKSON, La. -- For more than a decade, the hundreds of brown pelicans that nested among the mangrove shrubs on Queen Bess Island west of here were living proof that a species brought to the edge of extinction could come back and thrive.

The island was one of three sites in Louisiana where the large, long-billed birds were reintroduced after pesticides wiped them out in the state in the 1960s.

But on Thursday, 29 of the birds, their feathers so coated in thick brown sludge that their natural white and gray markings were totally obscured, were airlifted to a bird rehabilitation center in Fort Jackson, the latest victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Another dozen were taken to other rescue centers.


At the turn of the 20th century, observers estimated the brown pelican population in Louisiana at close to 50,000. But by 1961, no nesting pair could be spotted along the state's entire coast, according to LaCoast, a Coast Guard Web site. Like another subspecies of the brown pelican found in California, the local birds had been hard hit by DDT and other pesticides, which acted to thin the shells of their eggs. The eggs were crushed when the adults sat on them. (DDT was banned in the United States in 1972.)

Leslie Kaufman is an environmental reporter - for the New York Times - so it's no surprise she's quick to draw the myth of DDT affecting brown pelican populations and thinning egg shells from her environmentalist's bag of falsehoods. Vilification of DDT is the boggy sand foundation upon which the radical green house of cards is constructed. To admit otherwise would be rejecting the dogma of mankind's original sin as written by Saint Rachel Carson.

Funny thing, radical Islam and radical environmentalism are pretty much the only two groups that embrace terrorism to advance their ideologies. Although the green crowd doesn't actually go about beheading apostates, so they've got that going for them.

But the reality is that there is no scientific evidence of DDT thinning egg shells. There is no scientific evidence brown pelican populations were wiped out by DDT The myth of DDT may be the penultimate case of a post hoc fallacy. Luckily for America we succeeded in eradicating malaria and other vector borne diseases before DDT was arbitrarily banned by an EPA administrative judge.

Another funny thing is that a chemical whose patent holder was awarded a Nobel Prize in Medicine and is credited with saving upwards of 25 million lives could be transformed into an environmental boogie man solely through misinformation. What's not funny is the 1.5 million very poor people who contract malaria every year because greenies would rather see dark-skinned humans in third world countries die than risk exposing Saint Carson to the ridicule and derision she so rightly deserves.

The NYT may have been the first but almost surely won't be the last to trumpet the fraudulent DDT = dead pelicans story line. Fight the lie with the truth - Rachel Carson is in large part responsible for deaths of more people than Joseph Stalin. At least Stalin helped crush the Nazis.

Correction: DDT was banned not by a judge but by EPA head William Ruckelshaus - who did not attend a single day of the seven month hearing on its safety and did not even bother to read transcripts of the hearings.


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Comments (27)

But people like Carson WANT... (Below threshold)

But people like Carson WANT FEWER PEOPLE. You just have to be lucky to be among the chosen.

But, your lordship, accordi... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

But, your lordship, according to the source you site, DDT does not cause egg-shell thinning. However, OIL DOES.

But hey, it'll only thin the eggshells of those who survive long enough to try to reproduce. Mostly, it'll just kill the pelicans on contact, so it's all good, right?

So, you may be right about Carson and DDT. But pelicans are still gonna die in this catastrophe. Maybe enough will die to bring the species to extinction.

BTW, I also take exception to your assertion that "radical Islam and radical environmentalism are pretty much the only two groups that embrace terrorism to advance their ideologies." Ever hear of the Irish Republican Army? ETA? The Klan? The Tamil Tigers? The Lord's Resistance Army? Hutu militias? Where you been, son?

Woops, that should be the s... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Woops, that should be the source you "cite," not "site."

By no means am I an eco-nut... (Below threshold)

By no means am I an eco-nut, and have never cared to read Ms.Carlson's "Silent Spring," but the relationship between avian health and the use of DDT is a bit to close to call it "junk science."

This is especially true when noting the osprey comeback in New Jersey.

"The pesticide DDT was first used to control mosquitoes in Cape May County(NJ)
marshes in 1946 and was applied at increasing rates until 1964. When introduced into the
environment, DDT enters the food chain and bioaccumulates at each trophic level,
contaminating top level predators such as the osprey with high doses of this biologically
harmful pesticide. DDT contamination inhibits calcium metabolism in birds, reducing the
thickness of the eggshell. When an adult bird attempts to incubate an egg with a thinned
shell, the egg will break under the weight of the bird. Because DDT contamination may
remain within an adult osprey's body for years, pairs can continue to experience
reproductive failure over a long period of time.

Following the use of DDT, osprey populations in New Jersey plummeted due to
several decades of poor productivity. Prior to the 1950s, the osprey population in New
Jersey was estimated at 500 pairs (Leck 1984). In 1950, there were 253 nesting pairs
along the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey south of Barnegat Light. By 1975, only 53 pairs
remained in this area and a total of only 68 pairs remained statewide.

Due to its disastrous environmental impacts, the use of DDT was banned in New
Jersey in 1968 and in the United States in 1972. However, because of its persistence in
biological systems, contamination from DDT and its metabolite, DDE, continued to
impair osprey productivity. Ospreys in areas that experienced the most severe population
declines and the lowest productivity in the state were also found to contain the highest
DDT levels in their eggs. Osprey eggs collected in New Jersey during the early 1970s
yielded much higher DDT and DDE concentrations than those from other states.

In addition, analysis of eggs from New Jersey ospreys also revealed contamination from
PCBs.Here in Jersey, the population of Ospreys dropped dramatically

Call it the "canary in the coal mine theory."

The key aspect of DDT and bird decline lies the calcium deficiency it produces in the integrity of the shell. Adults end up crushing there brood due to the thinness of the contaminated shell.

These birds are at the top of the food chain, accumulating whatever garbage their prey has built up.

That their resilience to bounce back from this is clearly not a coincidence, especially when one considers New Jersey the most densely populated state in the county. You'd think over-population would be the mail culprit in Osprey decline.

There's too many instances with affected wildlife bouncing back to chalk up to coincidence.


Whatever your position on o... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Whatever your position on offshore drilling you got to realize that the Deepwater Horizon blowout is not the Three Mile Island of offshore drilling, it's the Chernobyl of offshore drilling. Like Chernobyl, the Deepwater Horizon blowout resulted from a series of design flaws, operator errors and moronic mistakes in the aftermath. As with DDT, the actual facts as to the risks of deepwater drilling won't matter and we'll all be paying for this disaster long after the gusher is caped and the cleanup completed.

Shawn,that pdf you... (Below threshold)


that pdf you cited is the definition of unsourced junk science ...

Bruce, DDT isn't claimed to... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

Bruce, DDT isn't claimed to have killed pelicans on contact. It's claimed the DDE (DDT metabolite) in their system from eating fish that had accumulated it caused their egg shells to thin. A claim that studies in which birds were fed DDT in concentrations an order of magnitude to several orders of magnitude higher than any exposure seen in nature failed to validate.

I guess I should have made clear that this oil leak is an ongoing environmental catastrophe that will have a far worse affect on pelicans than all the DDT sprayed in the US from 1945-1972.

Shawn, correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the Hudson river closed to fishing for several years because of PCB contamination? I believe they still recommend not eating fish from large areas of NY/NJ waterways more than once a week. Ospreys are also know as fish hawks, meaning they probably eat a lot of fish. Seems to me a contaminant found in fish in such concentrations humans were banned from even fishing might have been more to blame for their decline than a substance that hasn't been shown to affect egg shell thickness even at concentrations far exceeding anything possible in nature.

Oh, Bruce, you left off the... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

Oh, Bruce, you left off the Weathermen. Once again I guess I should have been more clear and said "still embrace terrorism"...

No evidence of eggshell thi... (Below threshold)

No evidence of eggshell thinning? Quite to the contrary, every study ever done on the topic found eggshell thinning.

That "junk science" site you cited was trying to warn you -- it's nothing but junk science (with the possible exception of claims that are total fiction). Here's an analysis of that site's many great errors on the issue of DDT killing young birds, by DeWitt, the guy whose work is the basis of the eggshell thinning claim:

I believe you will find tha... (Below threshold)
Carol Christopher:

I believe you will find that the problem with the pelicans was ultimately solved, it was poor Mexicans harvesting the eggs as a delicacy for a very good price. When they started protecting the birds nesting area from poachers the numbers increased, but few felt a need to share this information. I don't know about the other birds but I do believe that there was a change in mindset all over this country that helped in every way to eliminate problems with polution and wildlife. The EPA began as a great help in making people aware then it devolved into something else and is usually a problem now.

Here let me save Lee Ward t... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Here let me save Lee Ward the trouble

republicans liked murderous lies before a black man became president.

Quite to the contr... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Quite to the contrary, every study ever done on the topic found eggshell thinning.

Not so. Here's a summary of the facts:

As for the DDT-caused eggshell thinning, it is unclear whether it did, in fact, occur and, if it did, whether the thinning was caused by DDT, by mercury, by PCBs, or by the effects of human encroachment.[16,37] And as recently as 1998 researchers reported that thrush eggshells in Great Britain had been thinning at a steady rate 47 years before DDT hit the market; the researchers placed the blame on the early consequences of industrialization.[38]

Baron,I think you'... (Below threshold)


I think you'd be hard pressed to find a body of water that doesn't have some sort of PCB levels in them. I think remember reading that we all have PCBs in our own bodies.

Ospreys are fish eaters, but, from what I have read, PCBs do not cause egg-shell thinning.

DDT, or its metabolite DDE, have been shown to cause thinning of egg shells.

The effects of DDT are felt mostly by raptors (of which the Osprey belongs), pelicans, and ducks, and not other birds like passerines.

Granted, it works wonders for mosquito control, but it reeks havoc on 50% of avian species.

Damn, I gotta go.

Continue later.


Jeez,I just re-rea... (Below threshold)


I just re-read my #4 post and noticed all the grammatical errors.

That's what 2 hours of sleep will do to you.



Mac Lorry, I challenge you ... (Below threshold)

Mac Lorry, I challenge you to find and cite research that seriously questions the link between DDT and its daughter products, especially DDE, and eggshell thinning. Don't give us third-hand hearsay from industry advocacy groups, but cite for us the actual studies, please.

For example, in that paragraph you cite, from an advocacy group, we read:

And what of the charges leveled against DDT? A 1978 National Cancer Institute report concluded--after two years of testing on several different strains of cancer-prone mice and rats--that DDT was not carcino-genic.36

Fascinating. Alas, there is no citation to the study, but instead to a second- or third-hand publication. In fact, DDT is a weak carcinogen -- but it was not banned for carcinogenicity. You can check with the American Cancer Society (unless you wish to call them uncredible), and you will find DDT is listed as a "probable human carcinogen," as it is listed with every other cancer-fighting organization on Earth.

(Before you cite that one ACS-funded study that found no significant links to breast cancers and breast cancers only, please note the later ACS-funded study that found correlations do exist.)

As for the DDT-caused eggshell thinning, it is unclear whether it did, in fact, occur and, if it did, whether the thinning was caused by DDT, by mercury, by PCBs, or by the effects of human encroachment.16,37 And as recently as 1998 researchers reported that thrush eggshells in Great Britain had been thinning at a steady rate 47 years before DDT hit the market; the researchers placed the blame on the early consequences of industrialization.38

Stanford University summarized the dozens of studies showing eggshell thinning -- not in just a few, highly qualified circumstances, but generally, across the board, and in all species exposed. There are literally dozens of other studies that show clearly DDT and its daughters thin the eggshells of birds an otherwise make reproduction impossible.

Most tellingly, the recovery of bald eagles, osprey, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons, among the most-DDT-affected birds, was in direct correlation to the reduction of residual DDT and its daughter products in their tissues. As DDT contamination of the birds fell, eggshell thicknesses improved, and survival rates improved.

But don't be misled. It's not that DDT only thins the eggshells -- that was just sort of the coup de grace. DDT also kills the chicks in the eggs, and makes chicks that manage to survive to hatching, unviable. DDT kills predator birds especially through several different mechanisms, and it is gross error to claim that any eggshell-thinning study proves DDT doesn't harm birds. That would be tantamount to saying DDT is 'worthless as a pesticide, since it doesn't thin the eggs of mosquitoes.' Don't be misled by a sleight of hand.

Thrushes, by the way, are chiefly seed-eaters. They'd get the lowest doses of any bird from DDT sprayed on crops. It may be true that thrush eggs thinned prior to DDT introduction -- they were not the chief targets of DDT in the environment. DDT bioaccumulates -- it is sucked up like a sponge by any living material, plant or animal. Any creature that eats the producers in an ecosystem gets a higher dose. The dose of DDT multiplies up the food chain, until predators like eagles get a million-times dose of the stuff. A study of seed-eating thrushes would grossly misrepresent the dose and effects on predators higher up the food chain, those who eat the seed-eaters.

Your source, the American Council on Science and Health is a well-known industry advocacy group, which does no science on its own, has no scientists on its staff, and cites junk science in its papers. Many of the refugees of the collapse of the Tobacco Institute seem to have landed in groups like ACSH, continuing the old tobacco-lobby practice of almost-scientific denials of all harms, confusing consumers, and misrepresenting research done that shows harms.

See your library. Follow the footnotes to original research. Rachel Carson did, and she's never been contradicted. It's an admirable record we should emulate.

Your source, th... (Below threshold)
Your source, the American Council on Science and Health is a well-known industry advocacy group
They're all advocacy groups these days -- having scientists on staff doesn't change that fact.
Great comment, Mr Darrell. ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Great comment, Mr Darrell. And I checked out your homepage very quickly - very interesting blog, too.

And the "rebuttal" in comment # 16 is weak stuff indeed. As is, apparently, the article itself. The Baron does better when he is being funny.

Hey Ed, I followed your lin... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:

Hey Ed, I followed your link to the Stanford summary and found this:

Copyright ® 1988 by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye.

Seriously? Paul Ehrich? And you're telling me to check my sources. Has he been right about anything? I'm still waiting for the population bomb to go off, and I think Julian Simon is still waiting for his check...

In well-controlled experiments using white leghorn chickens and Japanese quail, dietary polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT and related compounds produced no detrimental effects on eggshell quality. A drastic reduction in hatchability of chicks occurred with 10-20 ppm PCBs, but no detrimental effects on eggshell quality, egg production or hatchability were found with 0.5 and 1.0 ppm PCBs, or DDT up to 100 ppm. Dietary PCBs potentiated a vitamin E-selenium deficiency in the chick, increased exudative diathesis, and decreased plasma glutathione peroxidase levels. Dietary PCBs induced hepatic microsomal benzopyrine hydroxylase. Dietary levles of 100 or 200 ppm inorganic mercury as HgSO4 or HgCl2 had little effect on egg production, hatchability, shell quality, morbidity and mortality. Methylmercury chloride, however, at levels providing 10 or 20 mg Hg/kg of diet, severely affected all of these parameters. Even though the present experiments demonstrate that neither DDT nor PCBs has any effect on eggshell quality in chickens and Japanese quail, they may cause thinning of eggshells in other species. Controlled experiments are lacking. Eagles, ospreys and pelicans all consume fish which in many areas of the world are known to contain methyl mercury. The thinning of eggshells in the species in the wild may have been due, at least in part, to environmental contamination with methylmercury rather than DDT, DDE or PCBs, as has been claimed.

That said, I will make this concession - the creation of the EPA led to several actions that banned/decreased a large number of pollutants - including DDT, PCBs, and various sources of lead and mercury - that to one degree or another affected bird populations. I think we can agree that's a good thing.

So the only question that remains is, what's an acceptable number of poor people to let die from malaria and other vector borne diseases for lack of DDT? We in the West have obviously found alternatives but why should some family stuck in Nairobi have to die to protect some pampered greenie's sensibilities?

Good. I hate those effing p... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Good. I hate those effing pelicans. Even more than I hate polar bears. Let's get 'em all, I say, and be done with it.

Let's note that your study ... (Below threshold)

Let's note that your study does not in any way say that DDT does not kill birds and prevent successful reproduction. There is a hint that other compounds may be implicated.

But this does not and cannot refute the other hundreds of studies that show the connections.

Here's the deal: Eggshell thinning is especially a problem in any young that do hatch and reach maturity. The study you cite doesn't get there.

So, go back to PubMed [all you readers may do this] and do a search for "DDT +eggshell," and tell us what you find.

You'll find this one, from just last year:

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2009 Apr;28(4):782-90.
Reproductive and developmental effects of transovarian exposure to o,p'-DDT in Japanese quails.

Kamata R, Shiraishi F, Takahashi S, Shimizu A, Shiraishi H.

Read the abstract carefully:


Avian species have the possible risk of embryonic exposure to persistent, lipophilic environmental contaminants, such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), by transfer of chemicals accumulated in mother birds to eggs. To model developmental and reproductive disorders of wild birds living in contaminated areas, we exposed Japanese quails in ovo to o,p'-DDT prior to incubation. A positive estrogenic substance diethylstilbestrol (DES; 1 and 10 ng/g of egg) and o,p'-DDT (1-100 microg/g of egg) were injected into the yolk before incubation. Treatment with o,p'-DDT (10 or 100 microg/g) but not with DES significantly reduced the hatchability of eggs. After sexual maturation, o,p'-DDT affected eggshell formation in female quails but had little influence on laying; high doses of o,p'-DDT significantly reduced eggshell strength, shell weight, and shell thickness, and several females treated with 100 microg o,p'-DDT/g laid eggs lacking shells. Diethylstilbestrol decreased egg production itself but had little effect on the eggshell. Both o,p'-DDT and DES caused dose-dependent shortening of the left oviduct and abnormal development of the right oviduct in females, while testis asymmetry was observed in males treated with a high dose of DES. In the uterus of the oviduct, the mRNAs for calcium-regulating factors osteopontin and calbindin D28K were reduced by both treatments, particularly that with o,p'-DDT. The results indicated that transovarian exposure to o,p'-DDT could bring about population declines in avian species through loss of fecundity caused by depression of hatchability and dysfunction of the reproductive tract.

You'll find this one -- and if you get the paper, you'll see in the footnotes those studies that back up the clear statement in the lead sentence of the abstract that DDT is the culprit:

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2009 Jul;57(1):174-84. Epub 2008 Oct 14. Organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, dioxins, and metals in postterm peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) eggs from the Mid-Atlantic states, 1993-1999.

Clark KE, Zhao Y, Kane CM.

It's a hopeful piece of research. Though it finds eggshell thinning correlated with pesticides (thickness "negatively correlated"), it finds that by 1999 DDT levels had dropped below the level thought to be deleterious:

Peregrine falcons were extirpated from the eastern United States by 1964 due to the effects of dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane (DDT) (Peakall and Kiff 1988). As a result of restoration efforts, peregrines have largely recovered in the region but remain a barometer of environmental contamination. In the course of monitoring nests, biologists in the mid-Atlantic states collected peregrine falcon eggs that failed to hatch. In the period 1993-1999, 93 eggs were collected from 66 nests in 31 locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. We analyzed eggs for organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and metals, and calculated toxic equivalencies (TEQs) for dioxins and furans. Organochlorine contaminants were detected in eggs from all parts of the region. Although nest success in all parts of the region was good, the PCB TEQ in the Atlantic-New Jersey region was significantly related to nest success, and the regionwide PCB TEQ was nearly significant for nest success across the five-state area. dichloro-diphenyl-dichloroethylene (DDE), DDT, and total PCBs were negatively correlated with eggshell thickness, although eggshell thinning (10.4%) was not at a level associated with deleterious population effects. The five states represented in this study are productive for peregrine falcons and have contributed to the recovery of this species. However, the results suggest that Atlantic coastal peregrines might be subject to contaminant burdens that have the potential to decrease nest success and productivity.

Discover Magazine did a survey of the literature in 2007. It found more than 1,000 studies in peer-review journals since 1962 supporting Rachel Carson's conclusions that DDT harms birds. Whether it's eggshell thinning alone, or acute poisoning as was found in Wisconsin, DDT kills birds and prevents their population recovery.

More on malaria next post. (Is there a word limit here?)

Mac Lorry, I chall... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Mac Lorry, I challenge you to find and cite research that seriously questions the link between DDT and its daughter products, especially DDE, and eggshell thinning. Don't give us third-hand hearsay from industry advocacy groups, but cite for us the actual studies, please.

The page I linked to lists 49 sources in total, three of which relate to eggshell thinning. The most damming of which is "Milius S. Birds' eggs started to thin long before DDT. Science News. 1988; 153(17):261."

If eggshell thinning was observed prior to the introduction of DDT then that means there are other contaminates in the environment that can cause eggshell thinning. Without knowing what those other contaminates are no study that does not control for ALL contaminates can be considered reliable. That invalidates most field studies on face value.

As with Agent Orange, it's not the herbicide that causes health problems in people, it's dioxin, which is a contaminate created during the production of Agent Orange. Likewise, it's been found that DDT contained the contaminate dioxin, which likely accounted for the harmful effects seen in most studies. Prior to the early 90's the technology to detect dioxin was limited to concentrations greater than what we now know are toxic. The studies summarized by Stanford University simply couldn't detect the harmful dioxin and assumed the effects were the result of DDT.

By the time DDT was banned many chemicals that also contained dioxin were being restricted, and thus the correlation with reduced DDT has little significance.

The validity of Science is not based on advocacy. Every group promotes the science that supports their position so if advocacy invalidates science than all science is invalid. Is that your position?

So the only questi... (Below threshold)
So the only question that remains is, what's an acceptable number of poor people to let die from malaria and other vector borne diseases for lack of DDT? We in the West have obviously found alternatives but why should some family stuck in Nairobi have to die to protect some pampered greenie's sensibilities?

So, it is your claim that someone in Africa died from malaria because they didn't have DDT, and DDT could have saved their life?

First, let's note the inherent, inescapable racism and cultural snobbery in this statement: You're saying that, because Africans all read Rachel Carson and agreed with her (in error, you claim), they refused to use DDT, though DDT was freely available and cheap, and it would have saved their children? In other words, Africans are too stupid to look after themselves? Is that your claim?

Or do you just think everyone else is stupid enough to take the claim at face value without thinking this through?

1. DDT use on a broadscale to fight malaria was stopped in 1965 by the World Health Organization, because overuse of DDT in agriculture had bred mosquitoes resistant to and completely immune to DDT. DDT was never removed from WHO's arsenal, and it has been used in a limited fashion since -- but your claim that Africans should have used DDT after it stopped being effective is silly, and racist once again.

2. No nation banned DDT until 1970, when Sweden did. That was five years after DDT use was stopped in Africa. For the calendar challenged, that means that the ban on DDT in Sweden, 1970, didn't affect DDT use in Africa, which had been slowed dramatically in 1965.

3. Mosquitoes don't migrate from Sweden to Africa.

4. In 1972, under the gun from two different federal courts which had determined that DDT is inherently dangerous and uncontrollable, but stayed a complete ban on DDT until EPA could finish a regulatory process, EPA banned the use of DDT in agriculture -- mainly spraying on cotton, in Texas, Arkansas, Arizona and California. This was seven years after DDT use was suspended in Africa. The ban on spraying DDT in Texas in 1972 was not the cause of the ending of spraying of DDT in Africa in 1965. DDT can't travel through time.

4.1 There are few fools who claim that EPA's action was unjustified. As I noted, two federal courts had already determined DDT to be deserving of a complete ban -- in trials where DDT manufacturers had full representation. Courts don't make such findings on whim. Under U.S. law, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the EPA's organic act, and federal common law, agencies may not make regulations without a hearing record and substantial evidence to back a scientific finding. Had there been no science behind EPA's ban, it would have been illegal. DDT manufacturers sued to overturn the ban, in fact. Two cases, both decided on summary judgment (meaning, even if all the evidence was found to be in the favor of the DDT companies, they'd lose), found the ban reasonable. DDT manufacturers did not appeal.

In four trials, then, it has been determined that the ban on DDT is fully justified based on the science.

5. Mosquitoes don't migrate from Texas to Africa (for the map-challenged).

6. Malaria death rates in 1960, the acme of DDT use, were about 3 million people per year. With reduced DDT use, the death rate had been cut to about 2 million per year in 1967. For the last 12 years, the death rate has been under a million per year -- that means that death rates were cut in half with the cessation of DDT spraying.

7. According to the official history of malaria in the U.S., from the CDC (the agency originally set up to control malaria in the U.S.), malaria was essentially eradicated from the U.S. by 1939. That was the year Paul Mueller discovered DDT was effective against bugs. DDT was not available for use fighting malaria vectors in the U.S. until 1946, seven years after malaria was defeated.

Now, you'll find a few straggler cases of malaria in the U.S. after 1939, but the essential story is this: Beating malaria requires good diagnoses, effective medical care to cure human victims, and prevention of mosquito bites, especially from those species that carry malaria (very few do). DDT was not the key to wiping out malaria in the U.S., and though it played an important role in other places, DDT is just one tool in a comprehensive campaign against the disease. DDT alone is no panacea, and in fact in nations like Mexico, where DDT has been used constantly and consistently since 1946, malaria remains endemic and epidemic.

8. EPA's 1972 regulation of DDT specifically allowed U.S. manufacturers to continue manufacturing DDT for export to Africa. DDT became cheaper in Africa due to a reduction in use in the U.S. There was, specifically, no ban on export of DDT to Africa at any time. (This came back to bite you. DDT manufacturers almost all declared bankruptcy in 1984 the day before the Superfund bill took effect -- to avoid cleanups. U.S. taxpayers are now on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up DDT sites in Houston, California, Michigan, and other places across the U.S. How's that "harmless" DDT claim working for you now?)

9. Malaria rates continued to fall in Africa until the pharmaceuticals used to treat the disease in humans stopped working against the malaria parasites. DDT plays no role in treating the parasites in humans. DDT is not a drug to treat humans with.

10. Bednets in use in Africa in controlled studies over the past five years have been found to reduce malaria by 50% to 85%. DDT spraying, in Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), reduced malaria by 25% to 50%. Bednets cost about $10, and last about five years. That's $2.00/year. With the testing to be sure that local mosquito populations are still affected by DDT, DDT spraying costs about $12.00 a house, and must be repeated every six months. That's $24.00/year.

So, DDT costs 12 times as much as a bednet, but is less effective.

Are you really silly and irrational enough to suggest that more DDT is better than more bednets? Remember that old racism argument?

We in the West got rid of malaria with better medical care, better housing, and comprehensive campaigns to remove mosquitoes from around houses where people would be bitten. DDT can play a small role in such campaigns, but it cannot work without the improvements in medical care and improvements in prophylaxis, like screens on windows or bednets, or better, the draining of raingutters, tires and potholes, and anything else near a bedroom window, where mosquitoes might breed.

A million dead people a year is too many to let die from malaria. Your assaulting the reputation of environmentalists, falsely, doesn't save any kid. Your advocacy of DDT, a largely ineffective chemical against malaria, doesn't help, either.

Why do you assume some family stuck in Nairobi should be poisoned in a futile attempt to fight malaria with Western-invented chemicals, in order to protect some pampered brownie's insults to greenies? It won't save them from malaria.

We can insult Rachel Carson and environmentalists, or we can fight malaria. The malaria fight is a better cause.

Im so glad all you enviro f... (Below threshold)
Rich K:

Im so glad all you enviro folk are all broken up over the 21 million and counting PEOPLE who have died from malaria over the years since.
Your all a blessing to us all.

Rich, if you know anything ... (Below threshold)

Rich, if you know anything about the fight against malaria in Africa, you know the pest professionals there use "integrated vector management (IVM)," and you know it's meeting with a great deal of success.

If you knew anything about the history, you'd recognize IVM as the "integrated pest management" described and urged by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring, in 1962.

If you were not so cynical against those 21 million victims, you'd applaud Rachel Carson and send $10 to Nothing But Nets. Your $10 might be the first time any Carson critic has done anything to save a life from malaria.

Ronald Bailey at reason.com... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Ronald Bailey at reason.com has a good article on this subject titled "Cracking open the facts on birds and banned pesticides". In it he says. . .

The first thing that one notices when plunging into the relevant scientific literature is how dated most of the eggshell-thinning research is. Most of the significant articles were published before 1980.

Which means these studies were done before toxic levels of dioxin could be detected. The safe level of some dioxins is only 2 ppt (parts per trillion) and the studies on DDT were dealing with ppm (parts per million). At the time researchers had no idea that the effects they were seeing were due, at least in part, to one of the most toxic substances know.

Ronald Bailey concludes by saying. . .

In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson asked, "Who has decided--who has the right to decide--for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power."

Banning DDT saved thousands of raptors over the past 30 years, but outright bans and misguided fears about the pesticide cost the lives of millions of people who died of insect-borne diseases like malaria. The 500 million people who come down with malaria every year might well wonder what authoritarian made that decision.

What's needed are new studies using DDT that doesn't contain toxic levels of dioxins, which is now possible, but environmentalists stand in the way of such studies. You see, humans are not endangered and have little value in their eyes.

Someone has checked the tem... (Below threshold)

Someone has checked the tempretures in California for the last 120 years and found that the tempreture change in that time was less than 1 degree. And he explains that this is probably due to the urbanization of the area. Because the asfalt reflects the heat much more than soil or grean. When you listen to eco frenzie, you think that the sky is falling.

Mac Lorry -- the old canard... (Below threshold)

Mac Lorry -- the old canard about how it was really PCBs that killed the birds, and not the DDT that the actual necropsies showed, eh?

Alas for your, when that issue was raised at trial, scientists were able to distinguish PCBs from DDT, and attribute the deaths to DDT appropriately.

DDT has a small role to play. But DDT is a deadly poison that bioaccumulates and can, if not managed extremely carefully, ruin the campaigns to get rid of malaria, as it did across Africa and Asia in the 1960s.

Is there a case to be made for more DDT? No. Can we beat malaria without DDT? Yes. Can we beat malaria with just more DDT? Not at all.

Africans are not stupid. Africans, and Asians, would not put their children at risk of malaria if DDT were safe AND effective, or just extremely effective but unsafe. And shame on you for claiming they do, even if your claim is implicit, even to you.

It's easy to get real fact about DDT, and real facts about malaria.






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