Debunking Junk Science’s hoax “100 Things You Should Know About DDT”: #14, William Ruckelshaus’s bias

February 17, 2011

Another in a continuing series, showing the errors in JunkScience.com’s list of “100 things you should know about DDT.” (No, these are not in order.) In the summer of 2009, the denialists have trotted this error out again.

At the astonishingly truthfully-named site “Junk Science,” Steven Milloy creates a series of hoaxes with a page titled “100 things you should know about DDT.”  It is loaded with hoaxes about DDT, urging its use, and about Rachel Carson, and about EPA and the federal regulation of DDT, and about malaria and DDT’s role in the ambitious but ill-fated campaign to eradicate malaria operated by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1955, officially until 1969.  Milloy knows junk science, and he dishes it out with large ladles.

Among what must be 100 errors, Milloy makes this claim, I suppose to suggest that William Ruckelshaus was biased when Rickelshaus headed the Environmental Protection Agency:

14.  William Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972, was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

This is a false statement on Milloy’s site.  After finding no credible source for the claim that Ruckelshaus was ever affiliated with EDF in any way, I contacted Ruckelshaus’s office, and got confirmation that Ruckelshaus was not and never has been affiliated with EDF.  It should be a clue that this claim appears only at sites who impugn Ruckelshaus for his action in banning DDT use in U.S. agriculture.

 

Junk Science's oddly apt logo and slogan

Hiding the truth in plain view: Junk Science is a site that promotes junk science, an unintended flash of honesty at a site that otherwise promotes hoaxes about science. Note the slogan. Does this site cover its hoaxes by stating plainly that it promotes “all the junk science that’s fit to debunk?”

It is also highly unlikely that he ever wrote a fund-raising letter for the group, certainly not while he was a public official.  The implicit claim of Junk Science.com, that William Ruckelshaus was not a fair referee in the DDT case, is a false claim.

I asked Milloy to correct errors at his site, and he has steadfastly refused.

Here is what Milloy’s point #14 would say, with the falsehoods removed:

14.  William Ruckelshaus [was] the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972[.], was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

Below the fold:  William D. Ruckelshaus’s “official” biography, if you call him today, February 17, 2011.  You should note, there is no mention of any work with EDF.

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DDT or PCB?

November 1, 2010

One of the key hoax points of the pro-DDT crowd claims that most early studies on the harms of DDT — from 1945 into the 1970s — must be dismissed because chemists then could not distinguish DDT from PCBs.

Chemically, were that the case at any point, modern methods of spectrophotometry would allow the retesting of tissues, or egg shells, or anything sampled years ago.   Why not retest?

I stumbled into this interview with Art Cooley, one of the early activists with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) (now just “Environmental Defense”).  In it, Cooley said that EDF had been able to establish that DDT can be distinguished from PCBs.

Which case is he talking about, in Wisconsin?  What was its outcome?  Which research papers, where, discuss how to tell DDT from PCBs?  This appears to be one more point where the hoaxsters exploited a general lack of specific information about a case.  What will the record show?

Climate Action Can’t Rest: Q&A with Art Cooley

August 12, 2010 | Posted by Sam Parry in climate action report

Sam Cooley, a founder of EDF

Art Cooley, one of EDF's founders, offers his perspective on the climate fight and the road ahead.

With the Senate apparently giving up on its efforts to pass a strong climate and energy bill this year, we took some time to talk with several EDF experts to help provide a broader perspective and describe some of the other important ways we are fighting to cut global warming pollution.

We begin this series with Art Cooley, who helped found EDF in 1967 to campaign against the use of DDT. Art remains on EDF’s board as a founding trustee.

Question: You helped found EDF more than 40 years ago. Can you tell us a bit about the early years and what EDF’s mission has been since?

We originally got started because we were concerned about the decline of ospreys on Long Island. We started by looking at the science and the case we put together — the effect on brown pelicans and peregrine falcons and bald eagles and ospreys — was compelling. It was DDT.

In one of our first cases in Wisconsin they tried to confuse the debate and tell us that we couldn’t differentiate between DDT and PCBs. Well, we plotted out evidence and showed that in fact yes we could tell the difference, and so weren’t confusing the effects from DDT with other chemicals.

That focus on science has always been central to our work. And getting the science right remains at the core of our mission today, which is why we are all so concerned about climate change.


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