How to tell if someone is wrong about DDT and Rachel Carson


Here is one surefire way to tell someone is bluffing, and perhaps doing a bit of planned prevarication, about Rachel Carson and the safety of DDT: Look for a footnote like this:

31 Sweeney EM. EPA Hearing Examiner’s recommendations and findings concerning DDT hearings. 25 April 1972 (40 CFR 164.32).

Why is that a sign of a bluff?

The volume and paging, “40 CFR 164.32,” is a reference to the Code of Federal Regulations. One knows that codes do not contain hearing records, and sure enough, this one does not. 40 CFR covers the rules of administrative hearings in federal agencies, but there is nothing whatsoever in that entire chapter about DDT, or birds, or chemical safety.

40 CFR is the chapter of the Code of Federal Regulations that pertains to the rules, regulations and procedures of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); it does not contain transcripts of regulatory hearings.

40 CFR is the chapter of the Code of Federal Regulations that pertains to the rules, regulations and procedures of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); it does not contain transcripts of regulatory hearings.  Anyone who cites a hearing to this publication is giving you a bogus citation, probably to promote bogust history and bogus science.

If that citation shows up in a screed against environmentalists, or against Rachel Carson, or urging that we spray poison till the cows come home to die, you can be pretty sure that the person offering it has copied it wholesale from Steven Milloy’s junk science purveyor shop, and that the person has not read it at all.  If the person has a law degree, or was ever a librarian or active in interscholastic debate, you can be pretty sure the person knows the citation is wrong, and is insulting you by listing it, knowing it’s unlikely you’ll ever find it in your local library.

(What is the accurate citation for the hearings? I’m not sure; but 40 CFR is not it. See the current section of CFR below the fold — it’s one page, not more than 100 pages.)

I have posted about this before. The hearings Judge Sweeney presided over were conducted early in the existence of the EPA. They were conducted under court orders requiring EPA to act. The transcripts are not in usual legal opinion publications, so far as I have been able to find. Many claims have been made about the hearings, most of the claims are false. Jim Easter at Some Are Boojums did the legwork and extracted a copy of the actual decision out of EPA’s library. He’s posted it at his blog, so you can see. Check the pages — “40 CFR” is a bogus citation, designed to keep you from learning the truth.

So the footnote is intended to make the gullible or innocent think there is a reference, where there is no reference.

But read the analysis of the hearings at Some Are Boojums. It is more than just the citation is wrong. Contrary to Internet Legend claims, Sweeney did not determine that DDT was harmless. Sweeney determined that DDT usage provided some benefits that outweighed the harms, considering the dramatically reduced use of DDT then allowed. DDT use had been severely restricted prior to the Sweeney hearings; Sweeney was not looking at all uses, nor even at historic uses. Sweeney was looking at dramatically reduced DDT use under the registrations then allowed. His conclusions of “no harm” where he actually concluded that, were based on greatly reduced use of DDT. This finding cannot be used today to urge an expansion of use — or should not be so used, by honest people.

Not to mention that at Caosblog, footnotes are not even listed in the text. The listing of the footnotes is a gratuitous error, there is no footnote 31 in the text.


40 CFR 164.32, under current law — from Findlaw.com

[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 40, Volume 23]
[Revised as of July 1, 2007]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 40CFR164.32]

[Page 178]

                   TITLE 40--PROTECTION OF ENVIRONMENT

         CHAPTER I--ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (CONTINUED)

PART 164_RULES OF PRACTICE GOVERNING HEARINGS, UNDER THE FEDERAL INSECTICIDE, 

 Subpart B_General Rules of Practice Concerning Proceedings (Other Than 

Sec. 164.32  Consolidation.

    The Chief Administrative Law Judge, by motion or sua sponte, may
consolidate two or more proceedings whenever it appears that this will
expedite or simplify consideration of the issues. Consolidation shall
not affect the right of any party to raise issues that could have been
raised if consolidation had not occurred. At the conclusion of
proceedings consolidated under this section, the Administrative Law
Judge shall issue one decision under Sec. 164.90 unless one or more of
the consolidated proceedings have been dismissed pursuant to Sec.
164.91.

One Response to How to tell if someone is wrong about DDT and Rachel Carson

  1. […] “How to tell if someone is wrong about DDT and Rachel Carson” […]

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