Not familiar? How about Dicholoro Diphenyl Tricholorethane? Maybe you know it better as DDT.
DDT was the first in a long line of chemicals and scientific innovations that activists managed to get banned or financially destroyed. It was 1962 when Rachel Carson wrote the book Silent Spring, the title describing a world without birds singing at springtime. She alleged that DDT weakened the eggshells of birds, causing them to collapse and kill unborn birds. A public outcry resulted, and eventually DDT was banned in the USA, then later in many other countries in the 1970s. The World Bank has a policy of refusing loans to any country that does not ban the use of DDT. In 2001, the Stockholm Convention was signed by128 nations, a treaty that called for the elimination of DDT and many other "persistent organic pollutants" barring health crises.
According to the UN's World Health Organization (WHO), DDT can be sprayed directly on clothing or used in soap with no ill effects to human beings, and although some studies have suggested a correspondence link between exposure to DDT with breast cancer, a direct study of the topic does not support this conclusion. Lancet's review of the data (Lancet 366 (9487), pp 763-73) reveals that:
In humans, DDT use is generally safe; large populations have been exposed to the compound for 60 years with little acute toxicity apart from a few reports of poisoning. Doses as high as 285 mg/kg taken accidentally did not cause death, but such large doses did lead to prompt vomiting. One dose of 10 mg/kg can result in illness in some people. Subclinical and subtle functional changes have not been meticulously sought until the past few decades.So why was it banned? For the same reason ALAR was banned; because activists and environmentalists screamed that it was dangerous, newspapers leaped on the story to be first to report it without understanding or researching the data, and the public cried foul. Did these alarmists know that ALAR was not dangerous and was not a carcinogen? The data was out there, but they might not have been aware of it. 17 years ago, the internet was not available for research as it is now. But they certainly ignored the voices who did know.
J.F. Beck at the RWDB blog examined an article by Tim Lambert at Scienceblogs. Tim Lambert's article was short, but the response by Apoorva Mandavilli, senior editor of Nature Medicine was a thorough Fisking (subscription required, excerpted at RWDB). Mr. Beck concludes with these thoughts:
At this point an important question arises: Is there any aspect of the use of DDT against Malaria that has not been misrepresented by Tim Lambert?
Lambert, who averaged about five DDT posts a month earlier in the year, has only posted on DDT once in the past two months. I think that's because it has finally sunk into his great big thick head that the scientific community's anti-DDT position was moderating. The anti-DDT tide had turned.
The GMO Pundit (who tipped Beck about the fisking) has this to say about DDT and Genetically Manipulated (GM) foods:
The subtle nature and indirect effects of the de-facto bans on DDT reveals how behind the scene misplaced NGO activism, directed at influencing policy in developing countries so that it conforms with rich country environmentalist fads can, and has caused great harm.There was discussion at Lambert's site as well:
This is the inconvenient truth that Lambert wants to avoid.
Sadly, the DDT delusional drama of a defacto ban is being replayed currently a second time with GMO crops, with even less evidence of actual harm. Here the stick is threats to ban imports of African food into the EU.
Namibia is a definite example that I checked when I was in Africa last year - if Namibia's cattle are fed South African GM maize they will be kept out of Europe say the behind the closed door EU officials. As if meat from cattle who eat GM maize are a "health risk". Similar blackmail is occuring in other African countries. This is voodoo activism at it's worst.
Truly Attaran chose an apt title for his DDT paper, "Balancing risks on the backs of the poor".
The effect of this second (GM) technology "ban" is to inhibit agricultural innovation in a continent where agricultural productivity is key to eliminating poverty. This is a vile and immoral outcome when it originates from misconceptions and falsehoods deliberately being spread in rich countries that have plenty of food.
Understanding the errors on DDT policy can allow reasoning open minded people to learn from history. The problem is that tunnel-vision zealots dedicated to a Green Crusade never will.
Just because the first time, DDT, was tragedy, there is no guarantee the second time, GM crops, will be farce.
In debunking this DDT myth nonesense there is one aspect that is rarely or never discussed. Malaria was almost eradicated in the early 1960s--from the whole earth. The number of cases registered by health authorities were at a historic low and eradication seemed within our grasp. This was done largely without pesticides, through careful monitoring, early diagnosis and rapid treatment of detected cases and general sanitation measures (cleaning up sources of stagnant water such as old tires, tin cans and other garbage in marginal communities). It was an exemplary international program that got local people heavily involved.
Pesticides were added to these measures in the late fifties, and may have contributed, but probably they were not necessary. If the policies had only continued for a few years more as they were being applied, malaria would be history. It is an eradicale disease as it has no animal reservoirs.
However, in the late 1960s international policy changed and it was decided to rely primarily on pesticides to finish the eradication job, and reduce or discontinue the funds spent on community-based monitoring and environmental measures. Of course, we know who benefited greatly from this decision. But who lost are the over 2 million people who now die every year from malaria, and the 100s of thousands who get sick or are at high risk. Because practically the first year after the new policy was implemented, the number cases began to increase again worldwide as they have done every year ever since then. Besides the usual venality of chemical companies, this story is a major moral and political failure on the part of the world public health establishment, which is why it is never told.
Now no one mentiones 'eradication' as a goal anymore. Who have killed millions are the pesticide companies and others who pushed for this mistaken policy that has utterly failed to control the disease. Malaria is completely out of control and will get worse as things heat up. Spraying, bed nets and now vaccinations are simply admissions of a major failure to eradicate this terrible disease when we had the chance.
Alicia Colon's stuff is more than rubbish. It is a criminal cover up.
Ron -You are generally on target in saying that a multi-pronged attack on malaria was making rapid progress until the 1960s, when it slowed dramatically. But we should be cautious about saying that total victory was just around the corner. In my view, it would be more accurate to say that part of the problem was (as you point out) a naive and overly optimistic belief in the enduring power of DDT, but also that another, very important part was that we had already won most of the easy battles. Gordon Harrison describes, in Mosquitoes, Malaria and Man, how the protean nature of the Anopheles mosquito stymied attempts to use a single breeding control strategy worldwide. The damn pesky critters just come in so many varieties, with a different behavior for each, that what works in Borneo is worthless in Bangladesh. Where the local malaria vector prefers to lay its eggs in (for example) wheel ruts and rainbarrels, the odds are excellent that you can mobilize the town and interrupt the breeding cycle. But where the mozzies would rather breed in the swamp and come to town on holidays, you face a much more difficult fight. The hard-won wisdom of the last fifty years is that any successful strategy against malaria must take into account all the local variables, and use a combination of targeted methods against Plasmodium and its vector. The CDC summed up our present state with a bit of determined pessimism:With the success of DDT, the advent of less toxic, more effective synthetic antimalarials, and the enthusiastic and urgent belief that time and money were of the essence, the World Health Organization (WHO) submitted at the World Health Assembly in 1955 an ambitious proposal for the eradication of malaria worldwide. Eradication efforts began and focused on house spraying with residual insecticides, antimalarial drug treatment, and surveillance, and would be carried out in 4 successive steps: preparation, attack, consolidation, and maintenance. Successes included eradication in nations with temperate climates and seasonal malaria transmission. Some countries such as India and Sri Lanka had sharp reductions in the number of cases, followed by increases to substantial levels after efforts ceased. Other nations had negligible progress (such as Indonesia, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Nicaragua). Some nations were excluded completely from the eradication campaign (most of sub-Saharan Africa). The emergence of drug resistance, widespread resistance to available insecticides, wars and massive population movements, difficulties in obtaining sustained funding from donor countries, and lack of community participation made the long-term maintenance of the effort untenable. Completion of the eradication campaign was eventually abandoned to one of control.-by jre
National Review Article on DDT
Malaria was almost eradicated in the early 1960s--from the whole earth. The number of cases registered by health authorities were at a historic low and eradication seemed within our grasp. This was done largely without pesticidesWhat are you talking about? This was precisely when people were using massive amounts of DDT.
Also, from Lambert's second link:From the outset, pyrethroids were identified as the insecticide to be used in the spraying component of the LSDI. However, with the discovery of high levels of pyrethroid resistance in An. funestus, meetings were held with the RMCC, national and international experts to recommend an alternative to the use of this family of insecticides. Based on scientific data, it was unanimously agreed the best course of action would be to use DDT. In the light of Mozambique not agreeing to the use of DDT, an alternative recommendation was that a carbamate such as Bendiocarb be used.
So. The unanimous scientific choice is to use DDT. But they don't, and instead go with a more expensive insecticide... now why would that be, I wonder?
TC, Ron is referring to the fact that Malaria was elminated from most of Europe and most of North America prior to World War II and the introduction of World War II.
-by Ian Gould
In April 1972, after seven months of testimony, EPA Administrative Law Judge Edmund Sweeney stated that “DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man. ... The uses of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife. ... The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT.”*Maybe it's time to reexamine this and quit presuming there's a problem with this chemical without the evidence to back it up. And if you read any more articles at scienceblogs, be aware that despite the impressive name, many advocates and junk scientists post there on various hot, activist topics.
Two months later, EPA head [and Environmental Defense Fund member/fundraiser] William Ruckelshaus - who had never attended a single day’s session in the seven months of EPA hearings, and who admittedly had not even read the transcript of the hearings - overturned Judge Sweeney’s decision. Ruckelshaus declared that DDT was a “potential human carcinogen” and banned it for virtually all uses.
*UPDATE: The World Health Organization is apparently going to endorse the use of DDT because whatever risks it might have are outweighed by the benefits in fighting Malaria and other insect-carried diseases.