Historic Deltoid: Indur Goklany on DDT, corrections from Tim Lambert

April 10, 2018

I’ll have to beg forgiveness from Tim Lambert, but in the interest of accuracy and good history, I have captured below the post Tim Lambert had on the old Deltoid blog (at the Seed Science Blogs site), dealing with Indur Goklany’s errors on DDT.

A bit of other history: Anthony Watts despises my posts (me, too, probably) and I am banned from his site for various sins including calling him out for suggesting Rachel Carson and President John F. Kennedy had more than an occasional handshake personal relationship (a bizarre charge Christopher Monckton repeats and exaggerates on in slightly different ways). Watts and I disagree on what we should regard as facts; I take the old collegiate debate and Scout Law positions, he sides with the Heartland Institute parody/comedy/hoax troupe.

Watts was having none of my corrections. Tim Lambert, who has researched this particular area of pro-DDT hoaxing more than anyone else, was kind enough to respond.

This is borrowed from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, until, and then maybe a supplement to, the reappearance of Deltoid’s archives at the new site. As of April 10, 2018, I have not checked the links. If links don’t work, please tell me in comments, and I’ll work to get a new link to the old information where possible.

You should also know that Sri Lanka today is certified to be malaria-free, without DDT.

Below, Tim Lambert’s post on Indur Goklany’s errors about DDT history:

 

Indur Goklany, DDT and Malaria

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Ed Darrell points to a WUWT post by Indur Goklany which promotes the use of DDT to fight malaria instead of more effective measures. As with most of the DDT promoters, Goklany carefully avoids mentioning the way mosquitoes evolve resistance to insecticides. For example, here’s what he has on Sri Lanka:

For instance, malaria incidences in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) dropped from 2.8 million in the 1940s to less than 20 in 1963 (WHO 1999a, Whelan 1992). DDT spraying was stopped in 1964, and by 1969 the number of cases had grown to 2.5 million.

Now compare this with what really happened in Sri Lanka:

With widespread resistance of A. culicifacies to DDT, malathion spraying was introduced in 1975 in areas of P.falciparum transmission affording protection to nearly one million people. Towards the end of 1976 DDT spraying was completely discontinued and during 1977 exclusively malathion was used as an adulticide.

i-888470655207729222fb0f61fe5fa18a-oth_mal_cases_srl60-08.png

Note that the scale for malaria cases is logarithmic, so there was a factor of ten reduction in the number of cases in a few years after DDT spraying was discontinued.

The misinformation about DDT and malaria that Goklany spreads is harmful and could kill people. DDT still has a place in the fight against malaria (because of insecticide resistance we need as many different insecticides as possible), but there are more effective means available, and by trying to undercut the use of the best methods for fighting malaria, Goklany will be responsible for people dying from malaria.

[End, quote from Tim Lambert’s old Deltoid blog]

Now, is it possible that the comments will copy as well as the blog post? There are some good ones in there.

Here’s a try at copying the comments, below the fold.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

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‘DDT has become harmless to mosquitoes today’

March 29, 2018

From India today, not news to anyone who follows the fight against malaria, and the fight to save a part of the planet to preserve human life.

DDT resistance prompted India to agree to stop production of DDT by 2020 — the last DDT factory remaining. India’s disease fighters tell of frustration trying to control malaria, because abuse of DDT has bred DDT resistant and immune mosquitoes. This is not news.

But India Today has a news hole to fill, and the continuing crises of vector-borne diseases force public health agencies to turn to “fourth generation” pesticides, as insects are now resistant to DDT and malathion.

The story out of New Delhi on March 13 almost adds some poetry to the issue. I repeat the story from India Today in full, partly because I love the lilt of Indian English, and because it tells the story of continuing attempts to get ahead of pesticide resistance in pests, attempts that just don’t seem to be doing the job.

Delhi’s civic agencies asked to use fourth generation pesticides to kill chemical-resistant insects

A small vehicle fogging streets of Delhi, India, with DDT, to fight mosquitoes. File photo from India Today, used to illustrate the story only.

A small vehicle fogging streets of Delhi, India, with DDT, to fight mosquitoes. File photo from India Today, used to illustrate the story only.

Pesticides such as DDT and malathion, which were once super weapons in the fight against mosquitoes, now seem to have become harmless perfume-like sprays for the blood-sucking parasites.

Scientists at the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Delhi which is the central nodal agency for prevention of diseases like malaria, dengue, filariasis, kala-azar, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya, etc, in India has now recommended municipalities in the Capital and other parts of the country to shift to the 4th generation of pesticides that is also the last in the row.

These constitute certain bio-larvicides and insect growth regulators that stop the synthesis of critical hormones in mosquito larvae to prevent them from becoming adult. Only after attaining maturity, do the female Anopheles and Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes suck blood to get protein nutrition to lay eggs.

Scientists explain that the first generation of pesticides was DDT, used since World War II on soldiers in 1940s up till now, as its a powerful poison against mosquitoes. Later, its environmental effects, specifically on birds like vultures, reduced its usage globally.

Then came malathion, which had to be applied in huge quantities, paving the way for 3rdgeneration pesticides like synthetic pyrethroids and temephos. But with reports of mosquitoes developing tolerance towards all of these gradually, scientists are now recommending mixed and increased usage of the fourth generation of pesticides that is also the last line of defence in this class.

Experiments are still going on with genetically modified mosquitoes and introducing batches of mosquitoes injected with wolbachia bacteria in the wild to produce sterile eggs. A senior scientist with the NVBDCP, Civil Lines, said, Just like humans develop resistance towards antibiotics, mosquitoes have also evolved over the past 20-30 years to grow natural defence against DDT, malathion, etc. We are still using these two in virgin areas like forests of northeast India, Odisha, etc. successfully. But we have begun getting reports that even temephos and synthetic pyrethroids have stopped receiving the desired results against mosquitoes.

A pesticide is said to be successful when it kills over 90 per cent of the targeted insect or pest population. Over 3,500 species of mosquitoes, which play host to a number of disease-causing vectors such as zika, yellow fever, west Nile virus, etc. are said to be the deadliest animal family in the world. They kill 700 million people annually world over.
In Delhi itself, at least 10 people died of dengue last year and 9,271 people were affected.

The numbers of malaria and chikungunya cases recorded in 2017 stood at 1,142 and 940. In 2016, at least 21 dengue deaths were reported from various city hospitals. And this year, an early onset of the deadly trio dengue, malaria and chikungunya is expected with summer-like weather conditions already.

High temperature and presence of clear water in desert coolers, flower pots, coconut shells, etc, act as excellent breeding sites for the menacing insects.

We have asked municipalities to even use the fourth generation of pesticides pirimiphos-methyl and diflubenzuron in a mix with the previous generation pesticides to delay mosquitoes developing tolerance towards this in the future, the scientist explained. He said, over the years, the pesticides must be rotated in use so that their effectiveness on hardy mosquitoes does not go down.

Dr Himmat Singh, senior scientist at the National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR), Dwarka, said, The benefit with these two latest pesticides is that they are only hormone-inhibitors, not poisons, and specific to mosquitoes. So they wouldnt have any effect on other insects, birds, mammals, fishes, etc. They are categorised as non-hazardous by WHO. However, their cost has been prohibitive so far, he said.

Delhi municipalities have begun their use after a meeting of scientists and bureaucrats of NVBDCP, NIMR, ministry of health and family welfare and the Central Insecticide Board (CIB) authorised their application in January, sources said.

Dr NR Das, head of the department of Public Health in east MCD said, We have already procured diflubenzuron on NVBDCP directions and been using it for one month satisfactorily. However, we will be able to ascertain its degree of effectiveness only after two to three months.

For at least a decade, India has been the world’s largest producer of DDT, and the largest user, spraying more DDT than the rest of the world together. China and North Korea were the only two other nations making DDT at the end of the 20th century, but both cut off production. Counter to popular conceptions, India has struggled to control malaria, often being the only nation in the world to account increases in the disease from year to year, since 2001. Malaria increased despite increasing DDT application.

To fight malaria effectively DDT spraying should be limited to Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), which leaves a fine coat of DDT on the walls of sleeping rooms, where malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite humans, then pause on the walls to squeeze water out of the blood they’ve fed on, to reduce weight to fly. Broadscale spraying of DDT only speeds development of resistance in all mosquito species, and many other pests.

India is catching up with the rest of the world on DDT.

Tip of the old scrub brush to India Today’s Twitter feed.

 

 


Rachel Carson warned us; you thought it was just DDT?

March 21, 2018

Two hummingbirds in Europe in 2017; will these birds go extinct, soon, due to agricultural use of potent pesticides that kill the insects birds need to live? AFP image via The Nation.

Two hummingbirds in Europe in 2017; will these birds go extinct, soon, due to agricultural use of potent pesticides that kill the insects birds need to live? AFP image via The Nation.

Bird populations appear to be collapsing across France, after insect populations crashed last year.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides generally get the blame.

France? You mean where “deja vu” is the native language?

It’s a serious problem.

Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said.

Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies – one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies.

Some policy makers and scientists appear to have been caught off-guard by the dramatic decline in birds — but anyone watching to environmental news last year probably isn’t surprised. In 2017, scientists and farmers noted the crash of insect populations, the food of the birds.  ‘Where have all the insects gone?’ asked a news story from Science Magazine.

Of the scant records that do exist, many come from amateur naturalists, whether butterfly collectors or bird watchers. Now, a new set of long-term data is coming to light, this time from a dedicated group of mostly amateur entomologists who have tracked insect abundance at more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the 1980s.

Over that time the group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, has seen the yearly insect catches fluctuate, as expected. But in 2013 they spotted something alarming. When they returned to one of their earliest trapping sites from 1989, the total mass of their catch had fallen by nearly 80%. Perhaps it was a particularly bad year, they thought, so they set up the traps again in 2014. The numbers were just as low. Through more direct comparisons, the group—which had preserved thousands of samples over 3 decades—found dramatic declines across more than a dozen other sites.

Insect declines were written about in Yale e360, and in news reports from Science. In 2017 scientists and others pondered causes for the decline, with research tending to point at new pesticides used in farming. Severity of the decline was alarming, but few sounded the alarms about birds last year.

Chart showing the decline of insects worldwide, from Yale e360: "According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. DIRZO, SCIENCE (2014)"

Chart showing the decline of insects worldwide, from Yale e360: “According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. DIRZO, SCIENCE (2014)”

These events are tragedies predicted by ecologists for years; it’s a replay of the “silent spring” Rachel Carson warned us of in her 1962 book — but the effects are much deeper, and moving much more quickly than almost anyone feared.

Can anyone devise a plan to stop the insect and bird decline, and get it up and operating in time to save Europe’s birds?

What if no one can?

More: 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Guardian Environment.

 


Sri Lanka declared malaria-free, without DDT

March 6, 2018

Chart from the India Foundation shows the ups and downs of fighting malaria in Sri Lanka in the 20th and 21st centuries. Sri Lanka is malaria-free since 2016.

Chart from the India Foundation shows the ups and downs of fighting malaria in Sri Lanka in the 20th and 21st centuries. Sri Lanka is malaria-free since 2016.

Sri Lanka pushed malaria out of the country, and is certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as malaria-free, as of September 2016.

If you follow the fight against malaria, this may not be news to  you. If you’re a victim of the pro-DDT, anti-WHO and anti-Rachel Carson hoaxes, you may be surprised.

Sri Lanka once got malaria to almost nothing, with heavy use of DDT in Indoor Residual Spraying. Then the budget hawks stopped the anti-malaria program (“Success!”) to save money. Malaria came roaring back as it will when vigilance relaxes — but by then the mosquitoes were mostly resistant to DDT, and a civil war kept the nation from mounting any public health campaigns in much of the country.

With the advent of new medicines, ABC therapy, and new methods to diagnose the disease, and using bednets and targeted pesticides other than DDT, Sri Lanka beat the disease. The news was carried in Britain’s The Guardian.

The World Health Organisation has certified that Sri Lanka is a malaria-free nation, in what it called a truly remarkable achievement.

WHO regional director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said in a statement that Sri Lanka had been among the most malaria-affected countries in the mid-20th century.

But, the WHO said, the country had begun an anti-malaria campaign that successfully targeted the mosquito-borne parasite that causes the disease, not just mosquitoes. Health education and effective surveillance also helped the campaign.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/05/sri-lanka-malaria-free-world-health-organisation

This is a blow to the anti-WHO pro-DDT forces. Sri Lanka has been a key story in their tales of how only DDT could fix malaria, stories told long after DDT stopped working. One more example shot down.

More:

Tip of the old scrub brush to The Guardian.

https://twitter.com/EdDarrell/status/898059767993831424

 


Map showing decline in DDT use, 2000 to 2014

September 22, 2017

Animation prepared by: UN Environment Chemicals and Health Branch 2016, with the latest information available and may not reflect the current status.

DDT use declining toward oblivion: UNEP caption – Source: DDT Expert Group. Report of the Effectiveness Evaluation on DDT Pursuant to the Article 16 of the Stockholm Convention Animation prepared by: UN Environment Chemicals and Health Branch 2016, with the latest information available and may not reflect the current status.

More than 180 nations signed the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs), often called the Stockholm Convention. The treaty pledges nations to voluntarily work to rid the planet of dangerous and toxic organic chemicals.

DDT is named in negotiation documents as one of the Dirty Dozen most toxic pollutants; however, because there was no alternative that performed exactly like DDT, the nations made a special addendum to the treaty to allow any nation to use DDT to fight disease vectors (insects that carry disease). The World Health Organization tracks use of DDT.

In 2001, 43 nations said they thought DDT would be useful. But by 2015, 33 of those nations gave up DDT, due to insects developing resistance and immunity.

India, the sole remaining nation where manufacture of DDT occurs, plans to stop all DDT production by 2020. India discovered that more DDT makes the insect pests more resistant faster, instead of beating disease carriers.

This map from the UN Environmental Program shows declining use of DDT, 2000 to 2014.  ][If that link doesn’t work, and it’s been iffy, try this one for information: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/chemicals-waste/what-we-do/persistent-organic-pollutants/alternatives-ddt]

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Annals of DDT: Eagles return to Buffalo, New York, in a big way

July 26, 2017

Caption from the Buffalo News: A bald eagle, one of a pair of eagles raising chicks in a nest on Strawberry Island in the Niagara River, fishes in the river, Saturday, March 9, 2013. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Caption from the Buffalo News: A bald eagle, one of a pair of eagles raising chicks in a nest on Strawberry Island in the Niagara River, fishes in the river, Saturday, March 9, 2013. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Among the greater chunks of powerful evidence for the damage the pesticide DDT did to birds is the dramatic recovery of some species as residual DDT levels drop, after DDT use ended in the U.S.

In 1970 only one nesting pair of bald eagles lived in New York state; I have not found whether they successfully fledged any young that year, but the odds are against it.

47 years later, eagles nest in after-recovery record numbers in New York, according to the venerable Buffalo News.

If you haven’t spotted the stark white head of a bald eagle somewhere in the Buffalo Niagara sky, it might be time to get out of the house more often.

Eagles are back in historically high numbers, according to a recent report by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC reported a record-high 442 bald eagle breeding territories statewide in 2016, including 58 spots in six Western New York counties, including Erie, Niagara, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. That’s up from 38 spots in the region in 2012.

“It’s an astonishing number,” said Jim Landau, a count coordinator from the Hamburg Hawk Watch.

Recovery of bald eagles, and other endangered raptors including osprey, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons, is a great chapter in the book of successes of the Endangered Species Act and the rising conservation consciousness of the 1970s.

Recovery of all four species waited after EPA’s ban on crop use of DDT, until residual DDT levels in adult birds declined to a point the female birds could once again produce competent shells for the eggs they laid. DDT levels in fish and prey also had to drop to levels that would not poison chicks just hatched.

EPA banned DDT from U.S. farms in 1972, designating all DDT made in the country for export, to fight disease. Though DDT use declined world wide as resistance to the pesticide spread rapidly among mosquitoes and flies that were its target, most diseases DDT fought against declined. I estimate about 100 million fewer people died of malaria alone after the DDT ban. Birds were saved, and so were humans.

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Malaria uptick in Botswana: No, more DDT can’t help

March 28, 2017

Health workers in Botswana use a cell phone to report malaria diagnoses and commencement of treatment, enabling real-time tracking of malaria outbreaks and rapid public health service responses. Photo from MalariaNoMore.

Health workers in Botswana use a cell phone to report malaria diagnoses and commencement of treatment, enabling real-time tracking of malaria outbreaks and rapid public health service responses. Photo from MalariaNoMore.

Interested, and interesting, to discover Botswana has a Facebook page where it appears is posted almost every press release or news item from the government.

I found it because some wag claimed on Twitter that Botswana faces a malaria crisis, and therefore DDT should be ‘brought back from the dead.’

Botswana did post about a malaria outbreak, but the nation appears to have good sense about how to fight malaria. The Tweeter missed that Botswana is already doing what a nation would use DDT for, Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), and that phrase alone means Botswana’s malaria fighters are alert to any need for DDT should it arise, but also to the severe limitations on DDT use. DDT doesn’t work in about 95% of the nations on Earth.

Botswana is among the ten nations remaining on Earth who use DDT when and where they find a population of mosquitoes still susceptible to DDT. Almost all nations on Earth signed the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs, or Stockholm Agreement), which requires annual reporting of DDT use. But there are 11 other pesticides the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends for IRS. Botswana is unlikely to use DDT where it won’t work, which is most places.

Botswana is one of the DDT Ten in 2016, too. But this is down from 43 nations in 2001. DDT’s effectiveness and time as a tool to fight malaria is mostly gone, vanishing quickly.

Botswana has DDT if it can find a use for it; no more DDT is needed. A malaria outbreak in Botswana is no reason to remove the ban on DDT use on U.S. farms.

Here is the story/press release from Botswana’s government:

MALARIA CASES RISE IN OKAVANGO

North West District has been hard hit by a malaria epidemic with 670 recorded cases and five deaths since the beginning of the rainy season.

Head of the District Health Management Team, Dr Malebogo Pusoentsi revealed this at a press conference aimed at evaluating efforts made in the district to control the disease, recently.

A task force was in the district to assess and appreciate the situation as well as discuss what more could be done going forward.

Dr Pusoentsi said the highly affected region was Okavango which recorded over 90 per cent of the cases.

Highly affected areas include Shakawe, Xakao and Seronga in the Okavango District while in Ngami, Tsau and Mababe were the most affected.

Out of the affected people, it was reported that males were mostly affected as compared to females, and that more than 30 per cent of the affected were children. The most affected areas were said to be schools.

Dr Pusoentsi explained that malaria infection in humans was mainly transmitted through the sting of the female anopheles mosquito, adding that the disease in people could present clinically as either uncomplicated, complicated or asymptomatic, especially for people living in malaria endemic areas.

She stated that prevention of malaria remained a priority with strategies aimed at vector control. She said two strategies have been used to control mosquitoes in the area such as indoor residual spraying and the distribution of the long lasting insecticide treated nets. She added that 57 000 nets having been distributed across the country.

Regarding indoor spraying, Dr Pusoentsi revealed that for the transmission period of 2016/17, the district achieved an average of 69 per cent coverage as compared to the 85 per cent target.

Asked if the district was winning the battle, she said they were on the right track as health officials have doubled up efforts to tackle the epidemic.

She said social mobilisation was effective as the community and leadership were taught to make malaria a priority in their agenda, adding that if one member of a family was affected, chances were high that the rest of the family were also at risk.

Furthermore, Dr Pusoentsi explained that many opportunities still existed at community level to effectively control the spread of malaria, citing the cleaning of surroundings to minimise the breeding spaces for the mosquitoes.

Another strategy was to work collaboratively to ensure community knowledge and participation during the epidemic period. She urged the community to visit health facilities if they experience any symptoms of malaria so that they could be assisted on time.

She noted that common signs and symptoms include high temperature, headache and rigors, pallor and vomiting.

Dr Pusoentsi also noted that Botswana was among the countries which were aiming to eliminate malaria by 2018, adding that as part of the strategy, all efforts and investments had been put in place to control the spread.

Effective surveillance mechanism, she said had been put in place to monitor the disease burden and response efficiency at all times.

In addition, she pointed out that case management and drug supply had been strengthened to ensure quality management of cases of malaria to avoid deaths. (BOPA)

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Disney showed how to beat malaria in the Americas, without DDT

February 26, 2017

Still photo from Walt Disney's "Winged Scourge," a wanted poster for "Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito." The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Still photo from Walt Disney’s “Winged Scourge,” a wanted poster for “Anopheles, alias Malaria Mosquito.” The 1943 film short suggested ways to cut populations of the malaria-spreading mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. Disease prevention would aid the war effort in 1943, it was hoped.

Malaria’s scourge hobbled economic progress across the Americas, and critically in World War II, that hobbled the war effort to defeat the Axis powers, Germany and Japan.

U.S. government recruiting of Hollywood film makers to produce propaganda films hit a zenith in the war. Even animated characters joined in. Cartoonists produced short subject cartoons on seeveral topics.

In 1943 the Disney studios distributed this film starring the Seven Dwarfs, among the biggest Disney stars of the time. The film was aimed at Mexico, Central America and South America, suggesting ways people could actually fight malaria. Versions were made in Spanish and English (I have found no Portuguese version for Brazil, but I’m still looking.)

the lost Disney described the film:

The first of a series of health-related educational shorts produced by the Disney studios and the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for showing in Latin America. It was also the only one to use established Disney characters (the Seven Dwarfs).

In this propaganda short, the viewers are taught about how the mosquito can spread malaria. A young mosquito flies into a house and consumes the blood of an infected human. She then consumes the blood of a healthy human, transmitting the disease into him. It turns out that this is actually a film within a film and the Seven Dwarves are watching it. They volunteer to get rid of the mosquito by destroying her breeding grounds.

A Spanish-language version of the film:

Fighting malaria in the U.S. became a grand campaign in Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. Roosevelt administration officials saw malaria as a sapper of wealth, especially in the rural south. Part of the charge of the Tennessee Valley Authority was to wipe out malaria. By 1932, public health agencies in malaria-affected counties were beefed up to be able to promptly diagnose and treat human victims of malaria. TVA taught methods of drying up mosquito breeding places around homes and outdoor work areas. Sustained campaigns urged people to make their homes tighter, against weather, and to install screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito entry especially at peak biting periods, dusk to after midnight.

U.S. malaria deaths and infections plunged by 90% between 1933 and 1942 — just in time to allow southern military bases to be used for training activities for World War II. After the war, the malaria-fighting forces of the government became the foundation for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With the introduction of DDT after 1945, CDC had another weapon to completely wipe out the remaining 10% of malaria cases and deaths.

It’s worth noting that in the end, it is the disease malaria that is eradicated, not the mosquitoes. In most places in the world, eradication of a local population of disease carriers is a temporary thing. A few remaining, resistant-to-pesticide-or-method mosquitoes can and do quickly breed a new population of hardier insects, and often surrounding populations will contribute new genetic material. Eradication of a vector-borne disease requires curing the disease in humans, so that when the mosquitoes come roaring back, they have no well of disease from which to draw new infection.

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Suicide with DDT: DDT can kill humans

February 13, 2017

Label on a can of DDT. BigPictureEducation image

Label on a can of DDT. BigPictureEducation image

It’s a footnote, but an important one right now, when the anti-science, anti-environmental protection, anti-learning wing of American culture again gears up to attack the memory of Rachel Carson, the science findings that led to the ban on crop use of DDT in America, and upon health care and medicine and science in general.

DDT kills. DDT can kill humans.

Daily Beast, usually a sober-enough, accurate enough online news organ that has absorbed the old print magazine Newsweek, recently carried a column by Paul Offitt, repeating the hoax claims that DDT was banned contrary to science, by a conspiracy of power-made environmentalists, that DDT is harmless to humans, and that had DDT not been banned, millions of humans would have survived malaria.

Long-time readers of this organ know each of those points is false, hoaxes ginned up to impugn science, leftists, environmental protection, or just for the hell of it. Offitt’s is just the first of several of these hoax-based articles which will cause us all grief this spring, I predict.

Probably the most difficult-to-explain hoax claim is the one that says DDT is “harmless” to humans.

DDT usually doesn’t come in a dose great enough to kill humans outright.  That should not be mistaken for safety. DDT was known to kill early on, and as it turns out, it has become a method of human suicide across Asia. Unfortunately for policy study, those cases rarely get reported in science journals.

Some medical researcher should study the issue, to determine how widespread DDT suicide might be, what physicians do to save a person so poisoned, if they ever can. And I often wonder, is any suicide by insecticide reported as “DDT,” though it may be some other toxin?

I stumbled across the story of a DDT suicide in India some time back. It was a short report. I found no follow ups.

Some time ago I was surprised to hear an author talking about DDT suicide, which she had mentioned in one of her stories. The story was published in The New Yorker, “A Sheltered Woman.” The magazine interviewed the author, Yiyun Li; Li explained why she mentioned DDT suicide in the story.

This week’s story, “A Sheltered Woman,” is about a baby nurse named Auntie Mei, a Chinese immigrant who has established a solid career for herself looking after infants and their breast-feeding mothers in the Bay Area. When did the character of Auntie Mei first come to you?

A year ago, while rummaging through old things, I found a notebook that I had bought at a garage sale in Iowa City when I first came to America—I had paid five cents for it. The notebook was in a good shape; though it remained unused. A character occurred to me: she paid a dime and asked if there was a second notebook so she did not have to have the change back. Such greed, the character said, laughing at herself. From that moment on I knew I had a story.

Auntie Mei keeps a distance between herself and her charges, rarely staying longer than the first month of a baby’s life and establishing an orderly regime in the households she enters. Yet her disciplined approach starts to falter when she’s faced with Chanel, a disgruntled young mother, and her son. Why is Chanel able to unsettle Auntie Mei? Did you know this would happen when you starting thinking of the way the two characters would interact?

Auntie Mei’s life has a reliable pattern: the moment she enters a house to take care of a new set of mother and infant she can already see the exit point. But any pattern is breakable. When I started the story, I knew that the situation would change for Auntie Mei. Chanel, by not being ready to be a mother, forces Auntie Mei into a dilemma: When the baby in her charge is not loved by his parents, should she step in and offer her love? And what danger would she find herself in if she does not suppress that love?

You said in a recent interview that your characters don’t struggle as immigrants but are concerned rather with internal struggles and with the problems they’ve brought with them from China. That’s certainly the case here, where Auntie Mei is haunted by the legacy of the two women who raised her, her mother and her grandmother, who rejected the men in their lives. Does Auntie Mei’s childhood reflect anything in particular about Chinese-village life? Could you imagine a similar situation had she grown up in America?

Part of Auntie Mei’s childhood reflects Chinese-village life. For instance, her mother threatened to kill herself with DDT. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, but, when I grew up, it was widely used in China, and, in the countryside, suicides by DDT were common. The peculiarities of Auntie Mei’s grandmother and mother would have been less readily accepted had she grown up in America, or even in a big city in China. However, Auntie Mei’s struggle is not specific to China. I imagine it’s a situation that can happen in any country. Our knowledge of history in general is limited, but at least there are historians who strive to enlighten the public. The murkiest history is within one’s own family, and oftentimes things remain unexplored and unsaid, and what is said may be misrepresentation or even distortion. Auntie Mei is not alone in her struggle with a shadowy past. In fact, I wonder how many people are truly exempted from the past.

One more anecdote, but one we may put stock into. DDT suicide is a thing. DDT can kill humans acutely, when the dose is great enough. Statements that DDT is harmless are inaccurate.

It’s a good short story, by the way.


DDT FAIL: Mosquito-borne diseases deplete medical care in DDT’s world capital

September 15, 2016

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

India News Today photo shows insecticide fogging in crowded Delhi neighborhoods to combat Chikungunya virus by striking down mosquitoes that transmit the disease from one human to another.

In the western world, libertarians, so-called conservatives and anti-science people call for a “return” of DDT to fight Zika virus spread.

But in the world’s DDT capital, India, where DDT is still made and more DDT is applied than in the rest of the world combined, DDT’s failures stand out. News reports say health care in key Indian cities is hamstrung by doctors and nurses getting mosquito-borne diseases.

Why don’t they just use “the magic powder,” DDT, to wipe out mosquitoes? Oh, Dear Reader, India has used DDT extensively, for everything, for 60 years. Mosquitoes that carry disease, and all other mosquitoes, and many other insect pests, developed resistance and immunity to DDT from that use.

Apart from the fact that DDT would be the WRONG pesticide to use for anything other than malaria-carrying mosquitoes from the genus Anopheles, it simply does not work.

If DDT advocates paid attention to news and history, they’d not call for more DDT anywhere for any reason.

India Today detailed the simmering crisis in Delhi in a story headlined, “Dengue-chinkungunya outbreak takes down doctor, nurses and sanitation workers”:

Subhead:

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

As outcry over an onslaught of viral diseases in the Capital reaches fever pitch and hospitals struggle in the face of an unrelenting tide of patients, the men in white too have started calling in sick.

Apart from doctors, even nurses, other members of the medical staff and sanitation workers are going on leave at a time when the number of people afflicted by dengue and chikungunya this year in the city and its suburbs has crossed two thousand.

Malaria is carried almost always by Anopheles, but chikungunya is carried by two species of Aedes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. These mosquitoes also carry dengue fever and Yellow fever. A. aegypti is the principal carrier of the Zika virus, worldwide. Health workers being felled by dengue and chikungunya tells us the area would also be fertile territory for the spread of Zika virus, if it were introduced there.

Careful watchers, therefore, will understand that DDT has worn out its usefulness against a wide variety of mosquito-borne diseases including Zika.

“In our hospital, 10 per cent of the staff is currently down with fever,” said Dr Ramesh Chugh, medical superintendent of Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Hospital in south Delhi. “We have over 100 doctors, and currently 7-8 doctors are down with fever.”

Experts say heavier than usual rainfall, a large number of construction projects and scores of open drains in Delhi are allowing mosquitoes to breed in stagnant water.

Far too many commenters fail to understand that DDT was never the chief tool in fighting malaria, or any other disease. Instead, DDT was used to knock down local populations of mosquitoes, temporarily, so health care and better housing and other measures could cure humans of the diseases and remove mosquito breeding areas from areas around human homes and human activities. India’s failure to provide good sewage drainage, good storm sewage drainage, and otherwise plug up potholes and even tiny water catching places allows mosquitoes almost free rein. India relied too long on poisoning everything with DDT, instead of building a mosquito-resistant urban area.

At Lok Nayak Hospital in central Delhi, 18 doctors are on leave. “Either the doctors are down with fever or somebody in their family is ill. The doctors are taking leave for at least 4-5 days. We have had cases where physicians were ill but returned to work early seeing the number of patients,” said a senior doctor.

NURSES AND SANITATION WORKERS ALSO ON LEAVE

In east Delhi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, 18 members of the medical staff, including doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, are absent. “In a staff of nearly 1200, 10-15 doctors are on leave due to viral illnesses,” said Dr Punita Mahajan, medical superintendent of Baba Ambedkar Hospital in northwest Delhi. “We are not exerting pressure on the doctors to continue if they feel slightly unwell as it is very important for the hospital to ensure that they remain healthy.”

The Delhi government has asked hospitals to ensure that dengue and chikungunya patients are treated without distress.

Officials say the health department has already dedicated an additional 1,000 beds for those suffering from fever at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, Janakpuri Super Speciality Hospital and Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital.

These institutes have been designated nodal hospitals for fever in the city. All hospitals- government and private – in the National Capital Territory have been directed to increase their surge capacity.

“While doctors are trying their best to remain on duty till the effect of vector-borne diseases recedes the city, the shortage in staff and the new directions from the government would add to the existing burden,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.

The Delhi government says it is fully prepared to battle with the onslaught of diseases and has denied in the city high court claims that the Capital is facing its worst dengue crisis.

In an affidavit filed in the court, it said strict surveillance of preparedness and impact of these diseases has been carried out for taking further preventive measures as, due to environmental conditions, the number of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria shows an upswing during July to October.

India continues to learn that DDT is not magic, not often useful, and sometimes detrimental to disease control efforts.

Will the rest of the world watch and learn? No, DDT will not and cannot help in the fight against Zika virus’s spread to humans. Waste no more time wondering, but get on with the hard work of draining mosquito breeding places, improving houses with window screens and other improvements, and developing vaccines and other medicines. Now.

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Men who can help us fight mosquitoes in the post-DDT world!

June 23, 2016

mosquito_hunters

Roy and Hank Spim. Photo by M. Python

George Wiman, a jack-of-many-trades, provides a hopeful post on the issue of fighting Zika virus, in a world where DDT no longer works well against mosquitoes.

At least, I think he does.

The daily saga of Hank and Roy.


Quote of the moment: DDT ban justified, Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey

June 20, 2016

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator William Ruckelshaus’s 1971 rule banning DDT use on U.S. crops, while allowing U.S. production of DDT to continue for export and for fighting diseases carried by insects, threaded a coveted needle. It was challenged in court by environmental protection groups who argued the rule should have been tougher and more restrictive, and by chemical companies, who argued the science basis for the law was inadequate.

Though we couldn’t tell from current news barkers’ claims that DDT should be freed to fight Zika, the courts ruled that there was ample science justifying Ruckelshaus’s ruling. These are the important words in that court decision. In other words, claims that the DDT ban was political or biased, are false.

IV. CONCLUSION

On review of the decision and Order of the EPA Administrator, we find it to be supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. Furthermore, we find that EPA has provided the functional equivalent of a formal NEPA report. Therefore, the two challenges raised concerning the Administrator’s decision to cancel DDT registrations are rejected and the Administrator’s action is affirmed.

Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA, 489 F.2d 1247 (1973)


DDT use plunged to just 10 nations in 2015; gone by 2020?

April 13, 2016

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

Just ten nations still used DDT in 2015, putting the planet on target to phase out all DDT use by 2020.

World Malaria Report 2015, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in early December, notes those nations reporting that they use DDT in public health fights against disease. Under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, any nation may use DDT simply by notifying WHO.  Signatories of the treaty usually agree to stop all use of DDT once current use ends. Since 2003, most nations using it found DDT simply didn’t work well enough to continue use it to fight malaria or any other vector-borne diseases.

In the 2015 Report, Appendix 2A lists methods of vector control used in nations (“vector” being the fancy word for carrier of the disease, or mosquitoes in the case of malaria).  (See pages 234 to 237 of the .pdf.)

Nations in which DDT is used to fight malaria
World Malaria Report 2015 Appendix 2A

  1. Botswana
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Gambia
  4. Mozambique
  5. Namibia
  6. South Africa
  7. Swaziland
  8. Zambia
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. India

Ten nations total, nine in Africa, plus India.

Despite political calls to “bring back” DDT as a means of fighting mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, no reports show any nation notified WHO it would do so. Most nations afflicted by Zika have been earlier afflicted by other diseases carried by the same species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti.  This species carries dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya, and perhaps others. Consequently, most of these nations have already tried DDT against the Zika carriers, and abandoned the projects when hoped-for results did not occur.

Every mosquito on Earth in 2016 carries at least a few of the alleles that make them resistant to, or even immune to DDT. DDT use also pushes mosquito populations to develop paths that make them quickly resistant to other pesticides. WHO guidelines urge public health officials never to use just one pesticide, but instead rotate among a dozen approved for vector use, in order to prevent the bugs from developing resistance. Resistance to pesticides remains one of the chief obstacles to eliminating disease, and a growing obstacle.

India is the world’s only known maker of DDT in 2015, and the heaviest user, using more of the pesticide than all other nations combined. Due to decreasing effectiveness of DDT as mosquito resistance to to it spreads and grows stronger, malaria has proliferated in India despite increased DDT application. In 2015, India announced to WHO it would suspend manufacture and use of DDT by 2020.

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In black, the ten nations who used DDT in 2016, nine in Africa, and India. 43 nations used DDT in 2001. India pledges to stop manufacturing DDT by 2020. Map by Ed Darrell, using Mapchart.net

In black, the ten nations who used DDT in 2016, nine in Africa, and India. 43 nations used DDT in 2001. India pledges to stop manufacturing DDT by 2020. Map by Ed Darrell, using Mapchart.net

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Report that malaria and DDT hoaxsters hope you never see

January 21, 2016

 Cover of World Health Organization's "World Malaria Report 2015," which reported dramatic progress controlling malaria.

Cover of World Health Organization’s “World Malaria Report 2015,” which reported dramatic progress controlling malaria.

World Malaria Report 2015 dropped in mid-December, with United Nations-style fanfare.

Which means, you probably heard little to nothing about it in U.S. media, and “conservatives” and anti-science hoaxsters hope you won’t ever see it, so they can claim contrary to the facts that liberals kill kids in Africa.

My cynicism about the fight against malaria dissipates some, but my cynicism about hoaxes substituting for political dialogue grows.

World Health Organization (WHO) releases an annual report near the end of every year, detailing the fight against malaria and progress or lack of it.

Good news this year: WHO estimates deaths to malaria fell below 500,000 per year in 2015. That’s at least a 50% reduction since renewed vigor in the malaria fight in 2000, and it’s a 90% reduction from peak DDT use years, 1958-1963, when WHO estimated 5 million people died each year from malaria.

About 80% of malaria deaths take children under the age of 5.

Bigger picture: Malaria is on the run. Humans are winning the fight against malaria. Much remains to be done, however. Plus, malaria fighters warn that malaria can come roaring back, if governments neglect to follow through on promises of funding, and with well-run programs to cure humans of malaria and prevent new cases.

World Malaria Report 2015 should influence policy discussions in U.S. elections. But generally, this report was ignored.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub will feature in-depth discussions of parts of the report, and simple repetition for the record of the report, as part our long-term battle against hoaxsters who claim the U.S. ban on use of DDT on U.S. farms somehow increased malaria in Africa, and killed millions, when malaria actually decreased and millions were saved from death.

Malaria loses only with hard work on the ground by medical people treating and curing humans of the disease, and by public health people working hard to prevent new infections. Most of that work is not glorious, occurs relatively anonymously and away from television cameras and photographers with access to social media.  Which is to say, the hard work of defeating malaria goes unsung around the world. We should work to change that.

What did others say about World Malaria Report?

A collection of Tweets, and other links, for your study.


India, world’s last DDT maker, heaviest user, plans to stop

August 29, 2015

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

Sometimes big news sneaks up on us, without press releases. We often miss it.

Quiet little Tweet from journalist I’d never heard of, who passed along news from an obscure journal:

As a journalist, this guy has a piece of a world-wide scoop.

India is probably the last nation on Earth producing DDT.  In the last decade other two nations making the stuff got out of the business — North Korea and China. For several years now India has been the largest manufacturer of DDT, and far and away the greatest user, spraying more DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, sand flies, and agricultural and household pests than the rest of the world combined.

As if an omen, India’s malaria rates did not drop, but instead rose, even as malaria rates dropped or plunged in almost every other nation on Earth.

Under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) signed by more than 150 nations (not including the U.S.), DDT was one of a dozen chemicals targeted to be phased out due to its extremely dangerous qualities, including long-term persistence in the environment and bioaccummulation, by which doses of the stuff increase up the food chain, delivering crippling and fatal doses to top predators.

A perfect substitute for DDT in fighting some disease-carrying insects (“vectors”) has never been developed. Health officials asked, and the Stockholm negotiators agreed to leave DDT legally available to fight disease. Annex B asked nations to tell the World Health Organization if it wanted to use DDT. Since 2001, as DDT effectiveness was increasingly compromised by resistance evolved in insects, fewer and fewer nations found it useful.

The site Mr. Nazakat linked to is up and down, and my security program occasionally says the site is untrustworthy. It’s obscure at best. Shouldn’t news of this type be in some of India’s biggest newspapers?

I found an article in the Deccan Herald, confirming the report, but again with some

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

New Delhi, August 26, 2015, DHNS:

It would be better to switch to another insecticide, says expert

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India has launched a $53 million project to phase out DDT by 2020 and replace them with Neem-based bio-pesticides that are equally effective.

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment.

India on Tuesday entered into a $53 million (Rs 350 crore) partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility to replace DDT with safer, more effective and green alternatives.

“As per the plan, the National Botanical Research Organisation, Lucknow, tied up with a company to produce Neem-based alternatives for the malaria programme. The production will start in six months,” Shakti Dhua, the regional coordinator of UNIDO told Deccan Herald.

Till last year, the annual DDT requirement was about 6,000 tonnes that has now been cut down to 4,000 tonnes as the government decided to stop using it in the Kala-Azar control programme.

A recent study by an Indo-British team of medical researchers found that using DDT without any surveillance is counter-productive as a vector control strategy as sand flies not only thrive but are also becoming resistant to DDT.

“It would be better to switch to another insecticide, which is more likely to give better results than DDT,” said Janet Hemingway, a scientist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. While the Health Ministry wanted to bring in synthetic pyrethroids, the United Nation agencies supports the bio-pesticides because of their efficacy and long-lasting effects.

“The new initiative would help check the spread of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. These include botanical pesticides, including Neem-based compounds, and long-lasting insecticidal safety nets that will prevent mosquito bites while sleeping,” Dhua said.

Ending the production and use of DDT is a priority for India as it is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) of 2002 that seeks to eliminate the use of these chemicals in industrial processes, drugs and pesticides. DDT is one of the POPs.

The clock is counting down the last years of DDT.  Good.

If events unroll as planned, DDT making will end by 2020, 81 years after it was discovered to kill bugs, 70 years after it was released for civilian years, 70 years after problems with its use was first reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 58 years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 50 years after European nations banned some uses, 48 years after the famous U.S. ban on agricultural use, 19 years after the POPs Treaty.

When will the news leak out?

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