Bated breath, bated brains, bated sense and DDT

July 11, 2009

At the root of all the false tales about Rachel Carson and DDT there are a handful of sources, all of them with an axe to grind.  In any discussion where someone tries to make a claim that DDT is good but misunderstood, or that Rachel Carson was evil tantamount to Pol Pot, Mao ze Dong and Lex Luther combined, the sources will turn out to be Gordon Edwards, Steven Milloy parroting Gordon Edwards, Elizabeth Whelan, Roger Bate, or Richard Tren.

Oh, there’s that Driessen guy, but he just quotes these other guys, appearing not to bother to check the accuracy of their statements.

Not one of these sources is an expert on DDT or its class of chemicals.  None of them is an entomologist, other than Gordon Edwards, whose productive work in entomology ended well before he fell in with Lyndon LaRouche and other America-hating groups.

It’s a tight-knit bunch, largely out of the sight of reporters and fact-checkers — and definitely out of the sight of scientists who work in either malaria reduction, wildlife management, or toxics control

If you care about science, about the War on Science (you out there, Mooney?), if you care about health care in Africa, Africa, Asia or generally about fighting malaria and saving kids’ lives; if you have any dog in the wise management of natural resources and especially wildlife; if you care about environmental protection, and wise government policies that will protect your children’s and grandchildren’s health and heritage, you need to read this article on Roger Bate.

Now operating out of the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Bate’s signature coup to date has been to spread the myth that environmentalists, by preventing the use of the pesticide DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) to kill mosquitoes in developing countries, have heartlessly caused millions of malaria deaths worldwide. It needs to be said at the outset that this argument is untrue. While some groups have pressed hard to find alternatives, there is little evidence that a concerted effort to abolish anti-malaria DDT spraying ever occurred. Of the few environmental organizations that even pay attention to pesticide use overseas, the ones with any clout all support a clause in the Stockholm Convention that allows DDT use for public health reasons.

The fact that this knowledge has not stopped Roger Bate is not surprising. The wider the untrue story spreads, the worse environmentalists look, and that’s always been his bottom line. For all his personal likeability, he is a man on a mission, and because he doesn’t let anything slow down the pace and scope of his argument, he is very good at what he does.

The story is titled “Bate and Switch: How a free-market magician manipulated two decades of environmental science.”

Adam Sarvana wrote the story for the Public Education Center (PEC), a non-profit center with an investigative journalism experiment based in Washington, D.C.  (Note to newspapers:  You can probably get rights to print this story.)

Quick!  Warn the others:

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War on malaria: Wall Street Journal and bloggers side with malaria

May 24, 2009

It’s spring.  Each of the past four years, spring has been the time that the anti-Rachel Carson, anti-environmental protection, anti-environmentalist, pro-DDT groups throttle up their campaigns to impugn Carson and environmentalists, and argue that all we need to do is poison Africa to make the world safe from malaria.

Here’s where Col. Renault joins us from Casablanca to say “Round up the usual suspects.”  It’s spring 2009.  Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution could be along any moment to say we need DDT to fight West Nile Virus, though DDT is not the pesticide of choice even among pesticide professionals.

The Wall Street Journal has become a favorite venue for these poison-the-Earthers as it has left rational policy decisions behind, at least in the editorial and op-ed pages. Steven Milloy’s got a book out slandering environmentalists, Green Hell, and a new blog to promote the book.  No doubt someone will trot out Gordon Edwards’ Lyndon-Larouche-tainted claims against Rachel Carson, though none of them check out.

Right on cue:  “Malaria, Politics and DDT – The U.N. bows to the anti-insecticide lobby” from the Wall Street Journal! It appeared in the Saturday edition, May 23.

Sure enough, Green Hell blog picks it up repeating the old canard about how a day without DDT is like a day of genocide. You can’t teach a stupid dog new tricks, you know.  In a post title that drips with calumny, Milloy says “Greens re-boot African genocide.”  They have no case; smears must do the work.

Let’s dissect the WSJ piece, eh?

In 2006, after 25 years and 50 million preventable deaths, the World Health Organization reversed course and endorsed widespread use of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria. So much for that. Earlier this month, the U.N. agency quietly reverted to promoting less effective methods for attacking the disease. The result is a victory for politics over public health, and millions of the world’s poor will suffer as a result.

So much error in so little space!  The error-to-word ratio may be a new land speed record.

Were there 2 million deaths per year from malaria, we could say malaria killed 50 million people in the last 25 years.  But for many, or most of the past 35 years, the death rate has hovered around 1 million, sometimes lower.  That’s still too high for those of us who think malaria should be beaten, but it’s not 2 million a year.  WSJ exaggerates the death figures — what else do they exaggerate?  If they have a case, why do they need to exaggerate?

WHO never abandoned DDT for specific usesThere was no policy for WHO to reverse in 2006.  WHO made it clear that they would continue to use DDT where appropriate, and where local governments would allow.  WSJ, new to the business of caring about Africans afflicted by malaria, doesn’t know the history.

DDT’s effectiveness against malaria-carrying mosquitoes began to wane by 1950.  By the mid-1960s, many populations of mosquitoes had developed resistance and even immunity to DDT.  That was why the World Health Organization (WHO) abandoned its campaign to eradicate malaria.  Overuse of DDT, especially in agriculture, led to rapid evolution of resistance among mosquitoes.  Without a weapon that worked as DDT had worked before resistance, the campaign could not succeed.

The Journal is simply wrong when it says only less-effective methods are left. DDT’s greatly reduced effectiveness is part of the reason; but research over the past five years, in tests run broadly in several African nations, shows that bednets reduce malaria infections by between 50% and 85%.  That is much more effective than DDT in broadcast spraying.

One of the things WSJ fails to mention — maybe they don’t know, there is much demonstration of ignorance in the editorial — is that DDT is not used in broadcast spraying to fight malaria.  Such campaigns proved disastrous because they killed off the predators of mosquitoes more effectively than they killed the mosquitoes, and because they often produced harmful results in other ways.  Along some African rivers, the spraying campaigns killed off a lot of fish local people used for food.  The dangers of DDT have been demonstrated in Africa.

WHO had championed a campaign in the late 1950s and 1960s to eradicate malaria.  The strategy was to use DDT to knock down local mosquito populations for six months or a year, and in that time treat humans infected with the malaria parasites so that, when the mosquitoes came back, there would be no pool of malaria infection among humans from which to draw malaria to spread.

Alas, the overuse of DDT caused mosquitoes to develop resistance before the malaria-fighters could get into the field in some places and get the health care components of the campaign to work.

Because of the worldwide resistance to DDT among insects, DDT cannot be counted on as a panacea against malaria in any case.  While it was never the panacea, never the sole tool to beat the disease, its role has been dramatically reduced by the rise of resistance to the chemical.

The U.N. now plans to advocate for drastic reductions in the use of DDT, which kills or repels the mosquitoes that spread malaria. The aim “is to achieve a 30% cut in the application of DDT worldwide by 2014 and its total phase-out by the early 2020s, if not sooner,” said WHO and the U.N. Environment Program in a statement on May 6.

Citing a five-year pilot program that reduced malaria cases in Mexico and South America by distributing antimalaria chloroquine pills to uninfected people, U.N. officials are ready to push for a “zero DDT world.” Sounds nice, except for the facts. It’s true that chloroquine has proven effective when used therapeutically, as in Brazil. But it’s also true that scientists have questioned the safety of the drug as an oral prophylactic because it is toxic and has been shown to cause heart problems.

Where was the Wall Street Journal when these studies were proposed, when they were run, and when they were reported?  WHO and health care agencies in affected countries carefully worked to find non-DDT solutions to malaria.  All programs to fight malaria require good health care systems, to diagnose malaria in victims, accurately as to the form of parasite affecting the victim, and to treat the disease to restore health to the victim and remove that person from the pool of people from whom mosquitoes can draw new malaria to infect others.  The results are in.  The treatment works.  Now comes WSJ to pose questions that have already been answered?  They are too late, and wrong.

Most malarial deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where chloroquine once worked but started failing in the 1970s as the parasite developed resistance.

Fascinating.  In discussions with the pro-DDTers, resistance of mosquitoes to DDT is generally denied.  But here the WSJ cites similar resistance by the parasite.  Remember, dear reader, that the DDTers are selective in their use of evidence.

Even if the drugs were still effective in Africa, they’re expensive and thus impractical for one of the world’s poorest regions. That’s not an argument against chloroquine, bed nets or other interventions. But it is an argument for continuing to make DDT spraying a key part of any effort to eradicate malaria, which kills about a million people — mainly children — every year. Nearly all of this spraying is done indoors, by the way, to block mosquito nesting at night. It is not sprayed willy-nilly in jungle habitat.

DDT is more expensive than bednets.  DDT is used now only for indoor residual spraying (IRS).  Hut walls are treated with DDT to kill or repel mosquitoes after they have already bitten a victim; this prevents the spread of some parasites, at least in the bodies of the mosquitoes killed.  IRS requires some expensive work, however.  First, analysis of the mosquitoes must be done to be sure DDT is effective; annd second, a professional or highly-trained person must apply the stuff.  DDT applications have to be repeated about every six months.  They cost about $12.00 each time.  IRS may decrease malaria infection by as much as 35% (I’m being liberal).

In contrast, bednets decrease malaria infection by 50% to 85%.  They cost about $10.00 for the expensive ones, and they last five years.  In tests and in practice in Africa over the past five years, bednets have proven to be a necessary and very effective method to fight malaria.  Bednets work without DDT (there are alternative chemicals available for IRS); DDT can’t work without bednets.

There is strong opposition to use of DDT even for IRS, in Uganda, for example, where cotton and tobacco farmers have sued to stop the use.  In other areas, local people still fear fish kills.  DDT is controversial because of local opposition to it, not because of any environmental group’s action.

And the net result is that DDT is not the cheapest nor most effective method to fight malaria.  It is an increasingly expensive, controversial, and decreasingly effective tool.

But here is the bottom line:  Unless malaria is wiped out in human hosts, there will always be mosquitoes ready to spread the disease from one infected human to a dozen uninfected humans.  The key to eliminating malaria is not killing every mosquito on Earth, as quixotic a goal as that may be; the key is to develop methods of curing humans quickly and well and interrupting the life cycle of the parasite.  Drugs are expensive?  DDT cannot substitute for drugs, regardless how cheap it is.

WHO is not saying that DDT shouldn’t be used. But by revoking its stamp of approval, it sends a clear message to donors and afflicted countries that it prefers more politically correct interventions, even if they don’t work as well. In recent years, countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia have started or expanded DDT spraying, often with the help of outside aid groups. But these governments are also eager to remain in the U.N.’s good graces, and donors typically are less interested in funding interventions that WHO discourages.

These campaigns have provided little success against malaria — nothing on the scale of success of bednets.

Oddly, one of the greatest roadblocks to the use of DDT in Africa since 2000 was the Bush administration, which refused to allow any U.S. dollars for the purchase of DDT or treatment.  There are foggy signs the Bush policies eased in 2008.  But again, it may simply be that the opportunity to use DDT is gone.  It’s time to move on to fight malaria, and quit tilting at the DDT windmill.

“Sadly, WHO’s about-face has nothing to do with science or health and everything to do with bending to the will of well-placed environmentalists,” says Roger Bate of Africa Fighting Malaria. “Bed net manufacturers and sellers of less-effective insecticides also don’t benefit when DDT is employed and therefore oppose it, often behind the scenes.”

Roger Bate acts as a shill for malaria over recent years.  Despite the name of his organization, he stands opposed to any effective means of fighting malaria, and he always stands for poisoning Africa.  His claims here are directly contradicted by the results of campaigns run by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a group which has dedicated its time and an astounding amount of money to beating malaria.  Bill Gates has no axe to grind on the issue — the foundation encourages bednets and medical care, and is relatively silent about DDT.  The Foundation’s work has saved more lives in the past three years than Roger Bate has in more than a decade of promoting DDT.  The Gates Foundation clearly is more credible.

All other serious experts tend to agree with the Gates Foundation path as well.

It’s no coincidence that WHO officials were joined by the head of the U.N. Environment Program to announce the new policy. There’s no evidence that spraying DDT in the amounts necessary to kill dangerous mosquitoes imperils crops, animals or human health. But that didn’t stop green groups like the Pesticide Action Network from urging the public to celebrate World Malaria Day last month by telling “the U.S. to protect children and families from malaria without spraying pesticides like DDT inside people’s homes.”

Pesticide Action Network is probably the only so-called green organization as crazy against DDT as Roger Bate is crazy for DDT.   Ignore what they say.  Pay attention to what’s really going on. (See comments on PAN.)  DDT is dangerous — PAN, for any inaccuracies they may have, are more accurate than the pro-p0ison side.

The National Academy of Sciences did a serious study of DDT in the late 1970s, and in a publication on the future of such chemicals in 1980, NAS said that while DDT was at one time a near-miracle working chemical, it is more dangerous than its benefits justify, and it needs to be eliminated from use.  The entire world has been working to protect people from dangerous man-made chemicals.  The Persistent Organic Pesticides Treaty of 2001 (POPs) calls for an end to use of dangerous chemicals, and singles out a dozen of the most dangerous. DDT is among the dozen most dangerous.  POPs includes a waiver to allow DDT use for fighting disease, so even it does not ban the stuff.  History shows that DDT decreases in effectiveness, and we discover new dangers from the stuff almost every year.  Since we have effective alternatives, and since DDT use has been hamstrung by litigation in Africa and ineffectiveness in the field, now is a great opportunity to end DDT use with very little harmful effect.

“We must take a position based on the science and the data,” said WHO’s malaria chief, Arata Kochi, in 2006. “One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual spraying. Of the dozen or so insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT.” Mr. Kochi was right then, even if other WHO officials are now bowing to pressure to pretend otherwise.

Kochi was right to call for IRS then — and since we now have effective alternatives to DDT to use in IRS, WHO is right again to call for a reduction in DDT use in 2009.  We must take a position based on the science and the data, after all.

DDT is less effective than alternatives, and more expensive.  DDT is a killer once released in the wild.  DDT is unnecessarily controversial where it might do the most good, and therefore even less effective than it might be.  How can the Wall Street Journal come to any different conclusion, if they’re looking at the economics and science?  Who would have suspected political string-pulling at WSJ?

Rachel Carson was right.  47 years after Silent Spring is not too soon to eliminate DDT use.

___________

Here’s one indicator of the silly and bizarre exaggerations pro-DDT people tend to use:  This guy claims DDT had eliminated polio. In an otherwise over-the-top claim that Rachel Carson is a mass murderer — a claim that is false in all respects — the author goes even farther, claiming DDT effectiveness as a pharmaceutical against a disease like polio where there is no record for DDT’s ever having been used.

____________

Even more flight from reality: Climate Change Fraud blog, a site that appears to be a haven for anti-science, reprinted the WSJ editorial and added a bogus history introduction.  And another addition to the Wall of Shame:  Black and Right.


I get e-mail from DDT cranks . . .

January 3, 2009

I noted the errors in a post at Reformed Musings.  Then I noodled around Mr. Mattes’s site,  and I dropped this note into his “about” thread, frustrated that I couldn’t just politely note the errors at his posts, where he’s disabled comments.

I said:

I wish you’d take comments on your posts. For example, you’ve got a couple of errors dealing with DDT in your post on climate change. It looks as though you’re hoping to sneak them past readers, rather than get the science right. I hope that’s not so.  By: Ed Darrell on December 31, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Mattes held that comment in moderation (afraid to let his other readers see it?), but responded in sort by diving deeper into wankery, with a post defending the more crackpot ideas of Michael Crichton, and straying much farther from the science in his claims about DDT and environmenta protection.  Heck, he even trotted out errors about Paul Ehrlich’s writing, apparently not content to be wrong about only DDT and global warming.

So, noting Mattes’s aggravation of his errors, I wrote again on his blog, a bit more sternly:

Shame on you. If you really think DDT is safe and that there was no science behind its “ban,” open comments, let us discuss.

But to compound your errors, and then to fail to approve comments from those who offer you correct information — well, reformation only goes so far, I guess.  By: Ed Darrell on January 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

Rather than open comments to discuss, and rather than respond to the post at the Bathtub, he sent me e-mail:

Shame on me? Excuse me, but I’m a bit amazed at your arrogance. You’ll offer correct information? Why, because others have a different opinion than you they have to be wrong? What are your technical qualifications and applicable experience, besides having a blog and a keyboard? Have you been to Africa? I have. Is racial eugenics your thing? Is that why third-world inhabitants are expendable to you?

Whatever you think you know, DDT is being successfully employed in Africa and elsewhere to save lives every day. No bad effects evident.  None. Their public health officials are literally begging for more. But then, their only agenda is survival. Selective and misleading reporting doesn’t interest them, only results.

Did Mattes miss many of the Tinfoil Hat Brigade’s concerns?

For the record, I don’t share Mattes’s fascination with eugenics as applied to race (and I’ll wager Mattes has no record fighting it); that tends to be a concern of the anti-science, historical revisionists (wrong about history, too).  I said nothing disparaging about third world peoples, and there are a dozen or more posts here to confirm my concerns about health in the third world, in contrast to only the junk science, “Let’s poison the hell out of Africa” attitude from Mattes.

In his second paragraph, he contradicts one of the main points of his first post. He says DDT is being used successfully in Africa — while his first post complained that environmentalists had successfully stopped it from being used.

That’s rather the mark of the true DDT sycophant, someone who suffers seriously from internet DDT poisoning:  The only reason they mention DDT is to find a cudgel to use against brave and smart women like Rachel Carson, or otherwise to criticize people who call for an end to pollution, or the preservation of water, air, trees or animals.  Unanchored by any fact or any need or desire to be accurate, they attack environmenalists, damn the inconsistency of the attacks.

Oy.

He’s followed up today with a new post that assaults science at every turn, claiming to follow science journals, but instead citing the chemical industry supporters like Richard Tren, opposing the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.  While complaining about “eco-socialism,” he approvingly cites the experts of Lyndon Larouche, the late Dr. Gordon Edwards, in all of his errors and all of the political wankery of Larouche.

Mattes has gone back to the false claims that Edmund Sweeney exhonerated DDT, and that “evil” William Ruckelshaus banned DDT anyway — completely murdering Sweeney’s analysis and the law behind it, and completely avoiding the law, the court cases, and the history behind Ruckleshaus’s actions.

In his frantic, apoplectic dance to avoid discussing whether he might be in error, Mattes has dived so deeply into the depths of tinfoil hat sourcery (no, it’s spelled as I intended it) that in the end, he’s not jus twrong, he’s not even wrong.

If someone criticized any translation of the Bible as carelessly and wildly as Mattes criticizes science, he’d be out recruiting neighbors with pitchforks and torches to march.

Mattes claims he’s done with the issue.  We can only hope.  To continue in his current trend, he’d need to deny gravity (both Newton and Einstein), atomic theory, and Linneaus.  But I also suppose it means he’ll never check here to see the facts.  Just when we thought we were making progress . . .

The real story about DDT, a few of the posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

The real story, elsewhere:

At Bug Girl’s Blog:

At Deltoid:

Also:


Beating malaria without DDT

November 3, 2008

I told you so.

Recent research and assessments of anti-malaria campaigns in Africa show dramatic results from the use of bed nets and other non-DDT spraying methods.

Rachel Carson was right.

I was compelled to jump into this issue when Utah’s U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop made a silly and incorrect statement against Rachel Carson, after his failed attempt to derail a bill to rename a post office in her honor on the 100th anniversary of her birth.  The slam-Rachel-Carson effort turned out to include Oklahama U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (who has since recanted), and an array of anti-science types who rail against “environmentalists” and made astoundingly false claims against Carson’s work and Carson herself.

In those cases, Carson’s critics called for a return of massive spraying of DDT.  Eventually most of them backed off of calling for outdoor spraying.  Eventually Sen. Coburn lifted his hold on the post office renaming legislation (and it passed).

The calumny continued on the internet, however, with an active hoax campaign for DDT and against environmental protection and Rachel Carson.  Steven Milloy joined Lyndon Larouche in promoting the anti-Carson screeds of the late Dr. Gordon Edwards, a UC Davis entomologist who argued against science that DDT was harmless to humans and animals.

Enough about history.  Look at the real results on the ground, today:

First, note the study published in Lancet that documents a dramatic decrease in malaria in Gambia, using “low-cost” strategies that include bed netsAgence France Presse carried a summary of the study.

Incidence of malaria in Gambia has plunged thanks to an array of low-cost strategies, offering the tempting vision of eliminating this disease in parts of Africa, a study published Friday by The Lancet said.

At four key monitoring sites in the small West African state, the number of malarial cases fell by between 50 percent and 82 percent between 2003 and 2007, its authors found.

The tally of deaths from malaria, recorded at two hospitals where there had been a total of 29 fatalities out of 232 admissions in 2003, fell by nine-tenths and 100 percent in 2007. A fall of 100 percent means that no deaths attributed to malaria occurred that year.

“A large proportion of the malaria burden has been alleviated in Africa,” the study concludes.

Also see:

Second, note that malaria rates also fell in Kenya, with a shift in infections away from young children, a very good sign. TropIKA.net carried a summary of that study.

Toronto’s Globe and Mail carried a longer story on Kenya’s experience, “Malaria a rare public-health success story in Africa.”

“We had to stay home and tend the sick – you can never leave them to go and work in the fields – and then there was no income and we were hungry. So truly, that 100 shillings was a great investment.”

The family heard about the importance of using a bed net to fend off malaria in a sermon at church, and then on the radio. Now, a year later, they would be able to get them for free, as Kenya ramps up its efforts to get every single citizen sleeping under a net.

Already, two-thirds of Kenyan children are sleeping beneath them and, as a result, child malaria deaths have fallen by 40 per cent in the past two years.

This remarkable success story has been repeated across much of Africa: Deaths of children under 5 declined 66 per cent in Rwanda from 2005 to 2007 and by 51 per cent in Ethiopia.

“This really is the one global public-health story that is simply and straightforwardly positive,” said Jon Lidén, spokesman for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has been behind much of the push.

“It’s not a gradual change. It’s a fundamental change in the fight against malaria.”

Yet the decidedly unglamorous innovations responsible for the change – spraying houses, treating standing water to kill larvae, mass distribution of cheap polyester nets and better drugs, and simple public education on the need to treat suspected malaria quickly – receive almost no attention.

“We never make the headlines with this stuff,” said Shanaaz Sharif, head of disease control for Kenya’s Ministry of Health, which has thus far given out 11 million nets at a cost to the government of $6 each.

Sulay Momoh Jongo, 7, is seen inside a mosquito net in a mud hut is seen inside a mosquito net in a mud hut in Mallay village, southern Sierra Leone, on April 8, 2008. Although free treatment is sometimes available in Sierra Leone to fight the mosquito-borne disease -- whose deadliest strain is common in the countrys mangrove swamps and tropical forests -- many cannot get to health clinics in time. Worldwide, more than 500 million people become severely ill with malaria every year. One child dies of the disease every 30 seconds. Picture taken April 8, 2008. (Katrina Manson/Reuters)

From the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Sulay Momoh Jongo, 7, is seen inside a mosquito net in a mud hut is seen inside a mosquito net in a mud hut in Mallay village, southern Sierra Leone, on April 8, 2008. Although free treatment is sometimes available in Sierra Leone to fight the mosquito-borne disease -- whose deadliest strain is common in the country's mangrove swamps and tropical forests -- many cannot get to health clinics in time. Worldwide, more than 500 million people become severely ill with malaria every year. One child dies of the disease every 30 seconds. Picture taken April 8, 2008. (Katrina Manson/Reuters)"

Despite pledges from the U.S. to signficantly increase funding to fight malaria, money has not flowed from the U.S., especially for bed nets.  Ironically, Canada is the chief donor of the nets.

Canada has had a key role in this success: The Canadian International Development Agency is the single largest donor of bed nets to Africa – nearly 6.4 million by the end of last year. In addition to government support, Canadian individuals and charities – notably the Red Cross – have embraced the issue by making donations and fundraising.

“Canadians … haven’t got the credit they deserve,” said Prudence Smith, head of advocacy for Roll Back Malaria, a partnership between key global-health agencies and donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not all news is good. In Zimbabwe, dictator Robert Mugabe misused $7.3 million in malaria-fighting money from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. So far, he has not repaid the Global Fund. Politics continues to kill Africans, not an absence of DDT.

In India, where DDT use is untallied, manufacture massive, and use virtually uncontrolled, malaria is resurgent. According to The Telegraph in Calcutta, malaria is epidemic among people living in poorer sections of the city, often with fatal results.  ExpressIndia.com’s headline tells the story:  “Malaria puts city on the edge:  toll rises to 8.”

Public health officials in India will step up information and education campaigns, and urge residents “not to panic.”

See also:

In the Philippines, the government’s press agency promotes malaria prevention steps.

Science Daily reports progress in the long march for a malaria vaccine.

Public health officials warn the U.S. is completely unprepared for a malaria outbreak, according to The Orlando Sentinel, via the Houston Chronicle.


Fisking “Junk Science’s” campaign against DDT: Point #8

June 29, 2007

This is the second in a series of Fisks of “100 things you should know about DDT,” a grotesquely misleading list of factoids about DDT put up a site called JunkScience.com. While one would assume that such a site would be opposed, this particular site promotes junk science. I’m not taking the points in order.The “100 things” list is attributed to Steven Milloy, a guy who used to argue that tobacco use isn’t harmful, and who has engaged in other hoaxes such as the bizarre and false claim that Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) can pose serious toxic hazards in your home (and therefore, you should continue to waste energy with less efficient bulbs); and to J. Gordon Edwards, a San Jose State University entomologist who, despite being a great entomologist, was a bit of a nut on some political things; Edwards assisted Lyndon Larouche’s group in their campaign against Rachel Carson before his death in 2004. (Did Edwards actually have a role in the development of this list?)

100 things you should know about DDT

Claim #8. Some mosquitoes became “resistant” to DDT. “There is persuasive evidence that antimalarial operations did not produce mosquito resistance to DDT. That crime, and in a very real sense it was a crime, can be laid to the intemperate and inappropriate use of DDT by farmers, especially cotton growers. They used the insecticide at levels that would accelerate, if not actually induce, the selection of a resistant population of mosquitoes.”

[Desowitz, RS. 1992. Malaria Capers, W.W. Norton & Company]

This was what Rachel Carson warned about. Indiscriminating use of DDT, such as broadcast application on crops to kill all insect, arthropod or other pests, would lead to mosquitoes and other dangerous insects developing resistance to the chemical. Of course, resistance developed as a result of overspraying of crops has exactly the same result, in the fight against malaria, as overuse in the fight against malaria.

Worse, such overuse also killed predators of mosquitoes, especially birds. In an integrated pest management program, or in a well-balanced ecosystem, birds and other insect predators would eliminate a large number of mosquitoes, holding the population in check and preventing the spread of malaria. Unfortunately, when the predators are killed off, the mosquitoes have a population explosion, spreading their range, and spreading the diseases they carry.

Assuming Milloy quoted the book accurately, and assuming the book actually exists, this point says nothing in particular in favor of DDT; but it reaffirms the case Rachel Carson made in her 1962 book, Silent Spring. Contrary to suggestions from the campaign against Rachel Carson, she urged that we limit use of DDT to tasks like preventing malaria, around humans, to preserve the effectiveness of DDT and prevent overspraying.

And then, there is this: Milloy doesn’t bother to quote the first part of the paragraph he quotes, on page 214 of Malaria Capers. Here is what the paragraph actually says:

There were a number of reasons for the failure, not least that the anophaline vector mosquitoes were becoming resistant to the action of DDT both physiologically — they developed the enzymes to detoxify the insecticide — and behaviorally — instead of feeding and wall-resting, they changed in character to feed and then quickly bugger off to the great outdoors. [from this point, Milloy quotes correctly]

To combat the dastardly campaign of calumny against Rachel Carson and science, you should also read: Deltoid, here, here and here, and the rest of his posts on the topic; Bug Girl, here, at least, and here, and the rest of her posts; denialism, here; and Rabett Run, here.


War on science: Spinning DDT, slandering the dead

May 17, 2007

What rational person would have thought irrationality could be in such surplus?

My post on the silly opposition to naming a post office after Rachel Carson produced a minor response. Reader Electratig took me to task at his blog.

Criticism is based on interesting claims that millions have died unnecessarily because the entire planet was driven to ban DDT, which is really not toxic to humans, and which really is the panacea that would rid the world of malaria. I’m surprised that DDT isn’t implicated as a cure for the designated hitter rule, too. The criticisms don’t hold so much water as the critics claim, I find. Read the rest of this entry »


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