Yes, malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills kids


May 27’s Google Doodle honoring Rachel Carson brought out a lot of those people who have been duped by the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers, people who are just sure their own biased views of science and the politics of medical care in the third world are right, and Carson, and the people who study those issues, are not.

So comes “The Federalist,” what appears to me to be a reactionary site, which yesterday got great readership for a story from Bethany Mandel.  Mandel tells a story of a child in Cambodia suffering from malaria.  The suffering is horrible and the child most likely died.  It’s a tragic story of poverty and lack of medical care in the third world.

Erroneously, Mandel up front blames the suffering all on Rachel Carson, in a carp about the Google Doodle.

Here was my quick response between bouts in the dentist’s chair yesterday [links added here]:

[Bethany Mandel wrote:] Using faulty science, Carson’s book argued that DDT could be deadly for birds and, thus, should be banned. Incredibly and tragically, her recommendations were taken at face value and soon the cheap and effective chemical was discontinued, not only in the United States but also abroad. Environmentalists were able to pressure USAID, foreign governments, and companies into using less effective means for their anti-malaria efforts. And so the world saw a rise in malaria deaths.

Don’t be evil?

Start by not telling false tales.

1.  Carson presented a plethora of evidence that DDT kills birds.  This science was solid, and still is.

2.  Carson did not argue DDT should be banned.  She said it was necessary to fight disease, and consequently uses in the wild, requiring broadcast spraying, should be halted immediately.

3.  Scientific evidence against DDT mounted up quickly; under US law, two federal courts determined DDT was illegal under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; they stayed orders to ban the chemical pending hearings under a new procedure at the new Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA held hearings, adversary proceedings, for nine months. More than 30 DDT manufacturers were party to the hearings, presenting evidence totaling nearly 10,000 pages.  EPA’s administrative law judge ruled that, though DDT was deadly to insects, arachnids, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the labeled uses proposed in a new label (substituted at the last moment) were legal under FIFRA — indoor use only, and only where public health was concerned.  This labeling would allow DDT to remain on sale, over the counter, with few penalties for anyone who did not follow the label.  EPA took the label requirements, and issued them as a regulation, which would prevent sales for any off-label uses.  Understanding that this would be a severe blow to U.S. DDT makers, EPA ordered U.S. manufacture could continue, for the export markets — fighting mosquitoes and malaria being the largest export use.

This ruling was appealed to federal courts twice; in both cases the courts ruled EPA had ample scientific evidence for its rule.  Under U.S. law, federal agencies may not set rules without supporting evidence.

4.  DDT was banned ONLY for agriculture use in the U.S.  It was banned in a few European nations.

5.  DDT has never been banned in Africa or Asia.

6.  USAID’s policy encouraged other nations to use U.S.-made DDT, consistent with federal policy to allow manufacture for export, for the benefit of U.S. business.

7.  U.S. exports flooded markets with DDT, generally decreasing the price.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

Fred Soper, super malaria fighter, whose ambitious campaign to erase malaria from the Earth had to be halted in 1965, before completion, when DDT abuse bred mosquitoes resistant and immune to DDT.

8.  Although WHO had been forced to end its malaria eradication operation in 1965, because DDT abuse had bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT, and though national and international campaigns against malaria largely languished without adequate government funding, malaria incidence and malaria deaths declined.  Especially after 1972, malaria continued a year-over-year decline with few exceptions.

Note that the WHO campaign ended in 1965 (officially abandoned by WHO officials in 1969), years before the U.S. ban on DDT.

Every statement about DDT in that paragraph of [Mandel's] article, is wrong.

Most important, to the purpose of this essay, malaria did not increase.  Malaria infections decreased, and malaria deaths decreased.

I’m sure there are other parts of the story that are not false in every particular.  But this article tries to make a case against science, against environmental care — and the premise of the case is exactly wrong.  A good conclusion is unlikely to follow.

Mandel was hammered by the full force of the anti-Rachel Carson hoaxers.  I wonder how many children will die because people thought, “Hey, all we have to do is kill Rachel Carson to fix malaria,” and so went off searching for a gun and a bullet?

You are not among them, are you?

Update: This guy, a worshipper of the Breitbart, seems to be among those who’d rather rail against a good scientist than lift a finger to save a kid from malaria. If you go there, Dear Reader, be alert that he uses the Joe Stalin method of comment moderation:  Whatever you say, he won’t allow it to be posted.  Feel free to leave comments here, where we practice First Amendment-style ethics on discussion.

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6 Responses to Yes, malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills kids

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Gary, Mrs. Reagan called. She wants you to stop using Ronnie as an avatar. Something about your stars not being aligned.

    Gary said:

    This is just straight up BS! Typical liberal tripe. 80 MILLION Africans died because of Rachael Carson’s book and faulty science that has been proven WAY WRONG.

    Your stuff is, indeed, straight up bovine excrement.

    Every year since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring the number of malaria deaths have declined.

    Gary either doesn’t know how to subtract, and messes up negative numbers, or he’s been sold a bill of goods by someone who finds him particularly gullible, or he’s prevaricating.

    Here’s your chance, Gary: Tell us how you arrive at that 80 million figure, and tell us how you decided to blame that on Rachel Carson.

    I’m particularly interested in your answer because Carson’s fanatic and ranting critics (you qualify) always seem to overestimate all malaria deaths, as if you’ve never bothered to look to see if such statistics exist, and which ones might be accurate. Plus, if you’re going to claim that the U.S. DDT ban somehow cut off supplies to Africa, you’re going to have to explain how. You see, EPA refused to cut off all DDT manufacturing as the courts had ruled, but instead left manufacturing alone, for export. Partly that was done to allow the chemical companies to stay in business (with expensive and destructive results in the U.S.), and partly that was done out of concern that DDT was necessary to fight malaria. The net result was that DDT supplies in Asia and Africa were multiplied.

    If you’re going to claim that the U.S. DDT ban fouled up WHO’s malaria eradication campaign, you’re going to have to explain how EPA’s rule in 1972 caused WHO to stop the campaign in 1965, but never stop using DDT in Africa and Asia. (The eradication campaign banked on DDT working like a charm against malaria-carrying mosquitoes and boosting medical care to cure malaria before the bugs got resistant to DDT; but when Fred Soper got to Central Africa in 1964, he and his organization discovered that DDT spraying on crops and other uses had already bred mosquitoes that were resistant to, and totally immune to DDT. So, reluctantly, they discontinued the campaign because DDT couldn’t do the job any longer). Gary appears not to have thought of that, or to be chronically calendar-challenged.

    And finally, he’s going to have to deal with reality: Malaria deaths declined almost every year after 1965 anyway, from the DDT-peak-use rates of 4 million deaths/year from malaria, to today’s fewer than 650,000 deaths per year. In other words, every year since 1991 we’ve had at least 3 million deaths PREVENTED; and between 1972 at 1991 about 2 million deaths prevented. Just a quick SWAG, but 19 years at 2 million deaths prevented = 38 million deaths prevented; 23 years at 3 million deaths prevented = 69 million deaths prevented; 38 million + 69 million = 107 million deaths prevented. So Gary’s figures have to explain a swing of 187 million deaths, if he’s claiming 80 million MORE died, instead of 107 million FEWER.

    Oh, and dirt bag, I don’t appreciate your attack. I don’t “worship” Breitbart, even though Andrew DID save my life, literally.

    You really are opaque to yourself, aren’t you. I offer a gentle version of the invective and profanity you’ve heaped on me. I allow your post unedited, while you Stalinesquely censor my comments at your blog.

    If you want people to regard you as other than a ranting buffoon, don’t clown around so much with undocumented, contrary-to-science-and-history rants.

    Fair?

    I’m also quite sure I’ve done more to help people than you ever have.

    Drs. Dunning and Kruger might like to see you, to get your story, and maybe photos of you for their publications. Give them a call.

    DDT is safe, but liberals are DANGEROUS and shouldn’t be allowed to hold positions of power. ever.

    DDT is still a deadly poison, which is uncontrollable in the wild, and kills entire ecosystems. Worse, it doesn’t work well against mosquitoes anymore, while retaining all of its harmful effects against other wildlife.

    But you who are badly misinformed should be trusted to do anything?

    Barack Obama could get a third term if he’d run, with arguments like that opposing him. People would probably vote that way even though the 22nd Amendment suggests it a bad idea.

    80 million DEAD in Africa thanks to Rachael Carson 80 MILLION. Good job liberals!

    Over the past 48 hours, I’ve asked you no fewer than five times to provide some sort of documentation for how you came up with that completely bogus, 180-degrees-in-error claim.

    I suspect if you could have, you would have.

    Here’s another chance: How do you arrive at a claim that 80 million additional people died from malaria, and after what point? As with most badly misinformed, self-proclaimed conservative legends-in-their-own minds, you’ll fail again.

    Electrons are cheap. Take as many as you need. Please avoid your usual profanity. (Profanity will run afoul of the spam filters; with recent spam attacks, it may be difficult to save comments there from trashing; so it would be good if you’d stay clean in language.)

    Nice of you to drop by and rant. Better, you’d stick around and discuss, with documentation.

    Like

  2. Gary P Jackson says:

    This is just straight up BS! Typical liberal tripe. 80 MILLION Africans died because of Rachael Carson’s book and faulty science that has been proven WAY WRONG.

    Oh, and dirt bag, I don’t appreciate your attack. I don’t “worship” Breitbart, even though Andrew DID save my life, literally.

    I’m also quite sure I’ve done more to help people than you ever have.

    DDT is safe, but liberals are DANGEROUS and shouldn’t be allowed to hold positions of power. ever.

    80 million DEAD in Africa thanks to Rachael Carson 80 MILLION. Good job liberals!

    Like

  3. […] malaria is still a plague; it’s not Rachel Carson’s fault, and your saying so probably kills […]

    Like

  4. Yglorba says:

    @Black Flag: Rachel Carson promoted _rational_ thinking about DDT. In fact, her book argued that DDT should be reserved for use against malaria (and other diseases), because continued overused of it was leading to mosquitoes with increased resistance to it. Indeed, it was this evolved resistance that eventually led to a decline in its use.

    It was Carson’s opponents (in wastefully using DDT for agricultural purposes, spreading resistance to it as a result and weakening its effectiveness as an anti-malarial measure) who caused unnecessary deaths; her actions prevented them.

    Like

  5. Arynne says:

    Did you even bother to read the above article at all?

    Like

  6. Black Flag® says:

    Malaria is not Carson’s fault – it is the fault of a parasite carried by mosquito

    Unnecessary deaths due to the irrational thinking about DDT is -in part- Carson’s fault. She promoted this irrational thinking.

    Like

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