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DDT: The Silent Killer…Only When It Was Gone

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Because mosquitoes were almost nonexistent with the use of DDT in places like Africa, elimination of DDT brought mosquitoes back — in force. The 1972 ban of DDT in the U.S. did not help matters at all. Now, many less effective and more costly methods are used — netting, other chemicals, you name it. But from the "Malaria Clock" listed in the following paragraphs, one gets an idea of exactly how many deaths have occured, especially from malaria.

But who ever heard a book causing the death of millions? Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was the driving force behind eliminating DDT throughout the world. Her fraudulent claims of bird egg thinning, and widespread declines in bird populations have all been thoroughly debunked by numerous studies.

Many need to read Junkscience.com's 100 things you should know about DDT to fully understand DDT history. The Malaria Clock totals up malaria deaths of more than 90 million to date, with almost 15 billion cases where malaria has caused immense suffering and poverty. 

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was first produced by Dr. Paul Mueller in 1939. He found that DDT quickly killed flies, walking sticks, potato beetles, aphids, and especially mosquitoes. After several unprecedented successes, including in 1943 when the U.S. Army used DDT on its soldiers to kill body, head, and crab lice, for his work with DDT Muller won the Nobel Prize in 1948. 

Gas chromatography was universally used in pesticide analysis in the 1960s. Often, it failed to differentiate between DDT and other chemicals. DDT has been mistaken for other organochlorides routinely in the methods used about the same time Silent Spring came out.

Others have mistakenly claimed that some mosquitoes have become resistant to DDT, but forget about its repellency. The continued efficacy of DDT in Africa, India, Brazil, and Mexico — where 69% where all reported cases of malaria now occur — shows that repellency is very important in preventing indoor transmission of malaria.

Carson should have stuck around long enough to see how the mosquito population has drastically increased over the last 30 years.

Today, the evolving door of science is determining that some man-made chemicals are more toxic than thought. Thalidomide, used by some pregnant women to prevent morning sickness, was found to cause severe birth defects. Aspartame, an existing artificial sweetener, has been found to produce symptoms of MS in healthy individuals.

However, Alar (daminozide) used extensively in the 60-80’s, was sprayed on fruit (mainly apples) to regulate their growth and enhance their color. The EPA decided to ban Alar altogether because of carcinogenicity concerns. It turns out lab tests have shown over 5000 gallons per day of apple juice must be consumed before any tumors could develop, and drinking less that 100 gallons of water in one day could cause death.

Unfortunately, DDT has been put in the same category as the first two truly toxic materials. In frequently asked questions on DDT use for disease vector control, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides some very salient points for use of DDT. Senator Tom Coburn’s plea to the European Union on DDT is so well described in Environmentalism, Human Health, Africa. It also depicts how nicotine breathed in from common cigarettes is 100 times more toxic than DDT.

John Berlau (Research Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute) says, “Not a single study linking DDT exposure to human toxicity has ever been reported.”

In Paul Driessen’s column in Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, he writes about how DDT expert Dr. Gordon Edwards used to eat a spoonful of DDT whenever he gave a lecture about it.

Driessen also confirms how the EPA head William Ruckelshaus had never attended a single day’s session in seven months of EPA hearings on the use of DDT, and who admittedly had not even read the transcript, banned it for virtually all uses.

After seven months of testimony, EPA Administrative Law Judge Edmund Sweeney stated “DDT is not carcinogenic to man…The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT.”

What’s worse is there is a contingent of people who are OK with the loss of life in developing countries without DDT because of fears of world overpopulation. Shocking as it sounds many believe third-world populations are third class citizens anyway. They believe fewer numbers of them will only aid the perceived problem of world overpopulation. They are the ones who put differing values on life.

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About Kevin Roeten

Orthodox Catholic, with scientific background.
  • andrewew

    “evolving door” nice mixed metaphor!

  • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com Ed Darrell

    The Junk Science “100 Things You Ought to Know About DDT” is pure junk. Most of the claims there are false — those that are not false are misleading.

    Yes, the National Academy of Sciences erroneously wrote DDT saved 500 million lives. But that was wrong — that was how many people got malaria in a year, not how many died.

    The critical thing is that the paper in which NAS said that said that DDT is so dangerous that, despite its benefits, it must be phased out.

    Much of the other stuff at that Junk Science site is simply made up. Eagle counts did not rise when DDT was being used — they shrank. DDT is a weak carcinogen, but still a carcinogen. DDT will kill humans (though only in sizable doses). DDT did not come close to eradicating malaria anywhere — the only nations that have eradicated malaria are those that have stopped using DDT; malaria is rampant now in those nations where DDT is used most.

    C’mon over to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, do a search for “DDT,” and start getting the facts.

    The facts are known and freely available — DDT is no panacea against any human ill.

  • Kevin

    Ed Darrell,

    You probably know that “Junk Science” infers that the science used is considered junk. You seem to have zero backup for your claims.

    Any documentation about what you claimed the NAS said?

    DDT is no weaqk carcinogen. Documentation please? Your info about malaria seems quite maligned. Is Rachel Carson some sort of hero to you?