DDT-obsessed politicos look for any opportunity to slam scientists and policy makers who urge caution about using the chemical. Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla) unholy campaign against the memory of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is only Exhibit A in how the obsession skews public policy now.
- Culex pipiens, photo copyright Pete DeVries, Insects of Wisconsin
In earlier posts I’ve warned that there will be calls for more DDT use, with reports of West Nile virus spreading this season. Winter is coming slowly to the American Midwest, so mosquitoes still crop up carrying the virus. Voodoo science and junk science advocates look for such opportunities to claim that we need to “bring back” DDT, ‘since the claims of harm have been found to be false.’
No public health official, no mosquito abatement official, has asked for DDT to fight West Nile virus, even as the virus infects humans across the nation. Nor has any harm of DDT been refuted (quite the opposite — we now know of more dangers).
One reason, of course, is that DDT is not the pesticide of choice to use against West Nile vector mosquitoes. Mosquito abatement efforts aim at the larvae, where DDT use would be stupid.
A survey of the nation, in places where West Nile is a problem provides a good view of how West Nile virus is fought by public health and mosquito abatement officials. DDT is used in no case.
- California, San Diego County – 15 cases this year, up from 7 last year. Officials recommend draining mosquito breeding areas. San Diego Union-Tribune
- California, Napa Valley – The Napa Valley Register reports that a local man has been infected, and two birds with the virus were found. No call for spraying, no call for DDT.
- California, Bakersfield – Emergency funds from the governor’s office will be applied to educating the public on how to avoid mosquito bites. Education emphasizes “the three Ds,” which is “dusk and dawn, drainage, and DEET.” Bakersfield’s Fox 58 News. The local newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian details how the $364,834 will be spent, on education efforts including doorhanger flyers, and a campaign to drain mosquito breeding places around homes.
- Illinois, Lake County – The first case for 2007 was confirmed in a 70-year-old man from Lake Zurich (compared to 11 cases in 2006). Lake County News-Sun online.
- Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh’s West End was sprayed to kill mosquitoes in pools of water (mosquito larva, actually), by the Allegheny County Health Department. Two infected mosquitoes were found in the normal trapping program. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Missouri, Columbia/Boone County – Three men’s infections reported bring the total cases in Boone County to 8, double 2006’s total. KOMU-TV reports Missouri has had 48 cases total this year. The Columbia Tribune reports the health department will spray with Anvil 2+2, a product based on the insecticide sumithrin. No call for DDT.
- New Mexico, Cibola County – The Cibola Beacon reports 9 new cases in the county, bringing the state’s total to 51 for the year, with 3 fatalities. No call for DDT.
- Mississippi, Jackson – The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports 15 new cases of West Nile in humans across Mississippi. With 99 cases reported this year, the newspaper reports, “The Health Department encourages all Mississippians to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of contracting West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses: remove sources of standing water, avoid mosquito-prone areas, especially between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; wear protective clothing (such as long-sleeved shirts and pants) when in mosquito-prone areas; and apply a mosquito repellent according to the manufacturer’s instructions.” No call for DDT.
- Delaware, New Castle County – The News Journal reports that a 73-year old New Castle County woman has become the first West Nile virus case reported in 2007, bringing to 21 the total number of cases in Delaware since 2002. Delaware’s Division of Public Health reported the woman was hospitalized, but has been released.
- Wisconsin – The Wisconsin State Journal features an editorial about the mosquito plague, “It’s Us or Them.” The editorial mentions DDT, noting that Wisconsinites even had a DDT sprayer that attached to lawnmower exhausts, to spray the yard as one mowed. While it’s tougher to fight mosquitoes without DDT, the paper notes DDT was harmful, and suggests safer alternatives.
- England – “The mozzies are coming“
While you’re at it, take a look at what LeisureGuy has to say about DDT and scaria. Then wander over to Townhall.com, and see what scaria really looks like, in a shameless column from Paul Driessen, the author of the anti-environmentalist screed Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death. According to Driessen, it appears that environmentalists have been biting Africans to spread malaria, not mosquitoes. He may exaggerate some.
West Nile virus is a great problem for people in the United States. No health official, mosquito abatement official, or anyone else in a position of responsibility, has called for DDT.