DDT news: Ethio Sun reports, “Ethiopia and Botswana in banned DDT pesticide deal”

January 12, 2012

How many hoax claims of Steven Milloy, Roger Bate and other DDT advocates are exposed in this one news story?

Somebody count.  The story reveals

  1. African nations still use DDT.
  2. There’s a lot of DDT in Africa to be used.
  3. Some nations don’t use DDT due to fear of health effects on people; they appear to have weighed the alternatives, and found better ways to fight malaria without DDT.
  4. DDT is cheap in Africa (US$4.50/kilogram).
  5. Despite the U.S. ban on DDT use on U.S. crops, some nations in Africa kept using DDT (the article misstates the case for a worldwide ban — there has never been a worldwide ban).
  6. DDT use is not assumed in Africa to be a great way to fight malaria.

I don’t mean to suggest EthioSun as a sterling source of information; but it’s not difficult to find stories like this with frequency, out of Africa.  Each of them refutes the case for more DDT, so that there really is no good case to be made for more DDT, anywhere.

Ethiopia and Botswana in banned DDT pesticide deal

Posted By On Thursday, January 12, 2012 06:32 AM.

Ethiopia is set to export about 15 tonnes of the banned pesticide, DDT, to Botswana, it has been revealed.

This follows a recent suspension on the use of the pesticide by the Horn of Africa nation, which cited adverse effects of human health and the environment as reasons for the decision.

Adami Tulu Pesticide, a state owned company has huge stocks of DDT, which it will reportedly sell to Botswana at US$4.50 per kilogramme.

It is estimated the company has 450 tonnes of DDT in stock.

The US led a worldwide ban on the use of DDT as a pesticide in 1972 following reports of adverse side effects on humans.

However, Ethiopia along with a few other countries continued the use of DDT in the fight against malaria.

Activists have demanded that the ban be lifted, in order to allow the use DDT in the elimination of malaria, especially in developing countries.

More than half of the estimated 80 million people in Ethiopia are said to be at risk of contracting malaria.

According to the World Health Organisation some countries still use DDT to fight malaria.

The disease killed over half a million people worldwide last year, most of them in Africa.

There was no immediate confirmation from Botswana about the planned export.

Steve Milloy, Roger Bate, Richard Tren, Henry I. Miller and others hoax us when they say DDT can save mankind, or even help save mankind.  See also Tim Lambert’s takedown of Goklany’s post.


DDT fanatic a former Monsanto lobbyist?

August 4, 2011

Sometimes in unexpected places you stumble across a factoid that makes sense out of a lot of other factoids, turning them into enlightening, and perhaps useful, information.

Steven Milloy used to be a Monsanto lobbyist?  Is that accurate?

Among the allegations, that Monsanto aggressively protects its patents on seeds and other products sold to farmers, and that the company may not be above a bit of skullduggery to push farmers and, in this case, milk processors, to use Monsanto products.  Watch for Steven Milloy’s name to pop up in the last paragraph.  The site quotes a Vanity Fair  article on Monsanto from 2008.

Even if Monsanto’s efforts to secure across-the-board labeling changes should fall short, there’s nothing to stop state agriculture departments from restricting labeling on a dairy-by-dairy basis. Beyond that, Monsanto also has allies whose foot soldiers will almost certainly keep up the pressure on dairies that don’t use Monsanto’s artificial hormone. Jeff Kleinpeter knows about them, too.

He got a call one day from the man who prints the labels for his milk cartons, asking if he had seen the attack on Kleinpeter Dairy that had been posted on the Internet. Kleinpeter went online to a site called StopLabelingLies, which claims to “help consumers by publicizing examples of false and misleading food and other product labels.” There, sure enough, Kleinpeter and other dairies that didn’t use Monsanto’s product were being accused of making misleading claims to sell their milk.

There was no address or phone number on the Web site, only a list of groups that apparently contribute to the site and whose issues range from disparaging organic farming to downplaying the impact of global warming. “They were criticizing people like me for doing what we had a right to do, had gone through a government agency to do,” says Kleinpeter. “We never could get to the bottom of that Web site to get that corrected.”

As it turns out, the Web site counts among its contributors Steven Milloy, the “junk science” commentator for FoxNews.com and operator of junkscience.com, which claims to debunk “faulty scientific data and analysis.” It may come as no surprise that earlier in his career, Milloy, who calls himself the “junkman,” was a registered lobbyist for Monsanto.

If accurate, it’s a sort of “origins” story — I don’t think it explains Milloy’s current advocacy of DDT and almost all other things anti-environmentally-wise.  Nor does it explain Milloy’s penchant for making things up whole cloth.  Does Fox News disclose this anywhere?

It does suggest his dirty tricks chops against environmentalists and scientists get exercised more than I had imagined.

The story is an interesting and odd footnote in the debunking of the unholy War on Science that claims Rachel Carson was wrong, and DDT is harmless and right.

More: 


Fox News needs to rein in Steven Milloy

March 10, 2011

The stuff NPR’s money guy said is rather pale by comparison.  Fox News needs to act, and apologize and retract for their commentator Steven Milloy’s errors and rash claims, if their commentator won’t.


Green Hell? Milloy slanders Ruckelshaus as “mass murderer”

March 10, 2011

This week, EPA bashing took front and center on the performance stage that passes as Congress these days.  There is a school of thought that thinks EPA should be eviscerated because EPA is carrying out the mandate an earlier Congress gave it, to clean up the air.  Especially, the recent assailants claim, EPA should not try to reduce carbon emissions, because clean air might cost something.

Steven Milloy, making stuff up and passing it as fact

Steven Milloy, who makes crude and false claims against William Ruckelshaus, a great lawyer and the hero of the Saturday Night Massacre. Why does Milloy carry such a pathetic grudge?

Wholly apart from the merits, or great lack of merits to those arguments, the anti-EPA crowd is just ugly.

78-year-old William Ruckelshaus, the Hero of the Saturday Night Massacre, a distinguished lawyer and businessman, and the founding Director of EPA who was called back to clean it up after the Reagan administration scandals, granted an interview on EPA bashing to Remapping Debate, an ambitious, independent blog from the Columbia School of Journalism designed to provide information essential to policy debates that too-often gets overlooked or buried.  [Remapping Debate sent a note that they are not affiliated with CSJ; my apologies for the error.]

Ruckelshaus, as always, gave gentlemanly answers to questions about playing politics with science, and bashing good, honest and diligent government workers as a method of political discourse.

Steven Milloy, one of the great carbuncles on the face of climate debate or any science issue, assaulted Ruckelshaus at Milloy’s angry, bitter blog, Green Hell.  Milloy calls Ruckelshaus “a mass-murderer,” a clear invitation for someone to attack the man. Milloy wrote, cravenly:

He’s the 20th century’s only mass murderer to survive and thrive (as a venture capitalist) in the 21st century.

Milloy owes Ruckelshaus an apology and a complete retraction.  I rather hope Ruckelshaus sues — while Milloy will claim the standards under New York Times vs. Sullivan as a defense, because Ruckelshaus is a public figure, I think the only question a jury would have to deal with is how much malice aforethought Milloy exhibits.  Malice is obvious.  Heck, there might not even be a question for a jury — Milloy loses on the law (nothing he claims against Ruckelshaus is accurate or true in any way).

This is much more damning than what got two NPR officials to lose their jobs.

Who will stand up for justice here?  Rep. Upton?  Rep. Boehner?  Anthony Watts?

I tried to offer a correction, and since then have written Milloy demanding an apology and retraction — neither comment has surfaced yet on Milloy’s blog.  Here’s the truth Milloy hasn’t printed:

No, Sweeney did not rule that DDT is not a threat to the environment. He said quite the opposite. Sweeney wrote, in his ruling:

20. DDT can have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish and estuarine organisms when directly applied to the water.

21. DDT is used as a rodenticide. [DDT was used to kill bats in homes and office buildings; this was so effective that, coupled with accidental dosing of bats from their eating insects carrying DDT, it actually threatened to wipe out some species of bat in the southwest U.S.]

22. DDT can have an adverse effect on beneficial animals.

23. DDT is concentrated in organisms and can be transferred through food chains.

On that basis, two federal courts ruled that DDT must be taken off the market completely. Sweeney agreed with the findings of the courts precisely, but he determined that the law did not give him the power to order DDT off the market since the newly-proposed labels of the DDT manufacturers restricted use to emergency health-related tasks. With the benefit of rereading the two federal courts’ decisions, Ruckelshaus noted that the courts said the power was already in the old law, and definitely in the new law. [See, for example, EDF v. Ruckelshaus, 439 F. 2d 584 (1971)]

DDT was banned from use on crops in the U.S. as an ecosystem killer. It still is an ecosystem killer, and it still deserves to be banned.

Ruckelshaus’s order never traveled outside the U.S. DDT has never been banned in most nations of the world, and even though DDT has earned a place on the list of Dirty Dozen most dangerous pollutants, even under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty of 2001, DDT is available for use to any country who wishes to use it.

Please get your facts straight.

Would you, Dear Reader,  help spread the word on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or any other service you have, that the Brown Lobby has gone too far in it’s error-based propaganda against clean air and those who urge a better environment?  Please?


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


No, DDT is not the easy answer to malaria

February 13, 2011

Roger Bate and Richard Tren, the Dynamic Duo of DDT, have been busy lately.  Bate appears to have found additional funding from the radical right-wing American Enterprise Institute, where I gather he has been prowling the halls trying to sell others there on the idea that DDT is an easy solution to malaria, and only mad, despotic environmentalist megalomaniacs have stopped DDT from saving Africa from malaria, the American economy from depression, and Major League Baseball from the designated hitter rule.  (I thought it odd that his bio doesn’t mention his work for tobacco interests as integral to his organizing.)

Graphic from a 1950s-era ad for DDT

Graphic from a 1950s-era ad for DDT. No, it's not right -- it's Madison Avenue then, expressing the claims of the "DDT-is-good-for-you" hoaxsters of today.

I don’t exaggerate much, if at all.

So, I’ll bore you with rebuttals over the space of the next few days.  Especially among the right-wing echo chambers, comments are frequently moderated to oblivion when they are allowed at all.

For example, there is a site that calls itself Minnesota Prager Discussion Group — a site for Dennis Prager groupies.  Here’s a post that may have been prompted by a Dennis Prager broadcast, but which cites a scurrilous pamphlet written by Bates and Tren, with Donald Roberts, carrying all sorts of calumny against environmentalists, health care professionals, diplomats, environmentalists and scientists — cloaked in a high degree of disrespect for readers who, they hope, have never bothered to read Rachel Carson and have forgotten everything they may have ever read about DDT and environmental harms it causes.

Here’s the post on DDT and malaria there:

Malaria Can Be Easily Controlled by DDT

Posted on February 2, 2011 by Glenn H. Ray

DDT Still Critical in Fight against Insect-Borne Diseases

Through a mix of environmental fervor, self-interest and disregard for evidence-based policy, United Nations (UN) agencies are misleading the public about the insecticide DDT — mistakenly claiming it is not needed and can be eliminated globally by 2020, says Donald Roberts, emeritus professor of tropical medicine at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Roger Bate, the Legatum Fellow in Global Prosperity at the American Enterprise Institute, and Richard Tren, the executive director of Africa Fighting Malaria.

  • UN agencies are misleading the public by claiming that malaria can be controlled without insecticides, notably DDT; the stated aim is to stop DDT use globally by 2020.
  • UN agencies are committing scientific fraud by deliberately and incorrectly interpreting data on malaria control using noninsecticide methods.

While DDT is no panacea, it is still a critical weapon in the battle against malaria and other insect-borne diseases, say Roberts, Bate and Tren.

Source: Roger Bate, Donald Roberts and Richard Tren, “The United Nations’ Scientific Fraud against DDT,” American Enterprise Institute, January 21, 2011.

Above information came from the National Center of Policy Analysis

Dennis Prager regularly reminds his listeners that many tens of thousands of lives can be saved by approving DDT uses in certain areas in Africa.

Oy.  Helluva lotta error and deception packed in a couple hundred words.

So, I tried to help the “discussion group” get to some more accurate understanding of DDT and malaria.

Ed Darrell, on February 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm said:

1. There is no shortage of DDT.

2. Not only is DDT not a panacea, it is increasingly not effective against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

3. Richard Tren leads an astro-turf organization that collects hundreds of thousands of dollars, but does very little if anything to actually fight malaria. These sorts of diatribes increase contributions to his organization’s coffers, but they don’t help fight malaria.

4. In actual practice over the last decade, bednets have proven to reduce malaria by 50% to 85% in areas where they are deployed; DDT is only 25% to 50% effective.

5. Bednets cost about $10 and last about five years — $2.00 per year. DDT costs upwards of $12 per application, and must be applied twice per year — $24.00 per year. Bednets stop mosquitoes cold. DDT depends on mosquitoes biting people first, then resting on a DDT-coated wall — and we hope that it’s a young mosquito that has not yet contracted malaria itself and is not shedding the parasites.

6. Malaria deaths, worldwide, are lower now than at any other time in human history. Since the U.S. stopped using DDT on cotton in 1972, the death rate to malaria has been cut in half. The death toll to malaria is, today, less than 25% of what it was when DDT use was at its peak. Statistically, it appears that cutting DDT use also cuts malaria.

7. We know that’s not the case, but those statistics prove that we can beat malaria without DDT — as indeed, the U.S. Army beat malaria without DDT to build the Panama Canal by 1915, 24 years before DDT was discovered to have any insecticidal properties. In the U.S., with the great aid of the Tennessee Valley Authority, malaria was essentially wiped out by 1939 — seven years before DDT became available for use against mosquitoes. No nation relying on DDT has been able to eradicate malaria.

Roger Bate, Donald Roberts and Richard Tren commit health care terrorism when they tell their fraud-laced stories against the UN and the health care professionals who fight malaria. Shame on them.

Did the author read anything I wrote?  He responded, politely for a guy who didn’t quite get it:

Glenn H. Ray, on February 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm said:

Ed Darrell: Thank you very much for this information.

Let us assume every item you mention is accepted beyond debate..

Malaria still ravages populations in Africa. We are not beating malaria without DDT.

Dennis Prager agrees with you regarding the value of bed nets and from his visits to Africa, has encouraged financial support to increase their availability.

The question still remains, why is DDT still banned rather than being available for use where needed?

My responses:

Sometimes the facts stare us in the face and we can’t see them.

You said:

Malaria still ravages populations in Africa. We are not beating malaria without DDT.

We have cut malaria 75% from when DDT was heavily used. We are beating malaria as best we can since DDT advocates overused DDT and made it ineffective against most populations of mosquitoes. (WHO’s program to eradicate malaria was effectively ended in 1965 because overuse of DDT by large agricultural interests had bred mosquitoes resistant to and immune to DDT; today, every mosquito on Earth carries the alleles that make them resistant and immune to DDT.)
It doesn’t matter how much we whine about DDT being “banned,” DDT doesn’t work to beat malaria now, and it was never intended to be more than a very temporary solution while medical care, treating the humans, did the real work.

When we beat malaria (as in the U.S.), the fact that humans do not have the disease means that mosquitoes cannot catch it from humans. That means the mosquito bites go back to being annoyances, and we don’t need to worry about them.

Malaria is a disease of humans. If we concentrate on the mosquitoes, we can reduce it, temporarily. If we concentrate on treating the disease, and preventing the disease in humans, we can forget about mosquitoes.

Dennis Prager agrees with you regarding the value of bed nets and from his visits to Africa, has encouraged financial support to increase their availability.

Then why is he talking smack against them? He’s talking untruths about DDT, untruths carried by the anti-bednet lobby, like the so-called “Africa Fighting Malaria” lobbying group. Bednets are twice to almost four times as effective as DDT, if they are used exclusive of each other. You don’t get that impression from Prager. Bednets cost a fraction of what DDT treatments cost. Bednets are effective longer than DDT treatments.

We can beat malaria without DDT. We can’t beat malaria without bednets. If he has no truck against bednets, Prager should get out of the bed of the anti-bednet, pro-DDT lobby, and talk about beating malaria.

The question still remains, why is DDT still banned rather than being available for use where needed?

No, the question is, why aren’t you listening?

DDT is not banned anywhere in Africa, and never has been. DDT is freely available to any government who wishes to use it — or private groups who wish to use it.

DDT doesn’t work as it once did, plus, it’s a deadly poison to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals. DDT is unsafe in use outside of Indoor Residual Spraying, where it is increasingly less effective — and Africans are nervous about IRS because their children keep getting sick with strange new diseases even when the kids are safe from malaria. There may be no solid connection between the new syndromes and DDT, but since DDT is not a panacea, not as effective as untreated bednets, and much less effective than treated bednets — why take a chance?

Opposition to DDT today comes from Dennis Prager’s and AFM’s friends in business in Africa. The only serious opposition to DDT I’ve found in Africa was in Uganda, where businessmen sued to stop spraying two years ago.

What in the world makes you think there isn’t all the DDT out there that health workers need?

Any discussion of fighting malaria that involves DDT takes away from the serious fight to beat malaria. A lot of westerners think DDT is a magic potion, and that if we just poison the hell out of Africa with the stuff, we can beat malaria without serious effort, without serious research, without improving the lives of the poor people of Africa who are victimized by the disease.

We beat malaria in the U.S. by improving housing, beefing up public health services, and increasing incomes of families of victims. It took 20 years of concentrated work — all before DDT was even discovered to kill bugs.

To beat malaria in Africa, we must improve housing, beef up medical care, both diagnoses and treatment of the disease, and improve the lives of the families of victims to prevent new disease-causing bites.

It’s tough work. Prager appears not to have the stomach for it. If so, he should say so, instead of claiming, falsely, that DDT could do the job.

Malaria proves a tough foe, difficult to beat. DDT could play a very small role in the defeat of malaria, but more DDT won’t help, and malaria isn’t winning because DDT isn’t available. DDT is readily available. DDT doesn’t work anymore, and DDT was never intended to be a sole weapon.

And:

Lancet recently devoted most of an issue to fighting malaria, and how to beat it. Lancet is perhaps the world’s leading medical journal, certainly among the top three, with no axe to grind, and concerned with improving the condition of humans throughout the world — from a medical care perspective.

The articles come from the world’s leading malaria fighters and those in the vanguard of research on how to beat malaria.

Here’s the executive summary (8 pages in .pdf form).

Did you notice? No call for DDT.

Can you and Dennis Prager please get on board with the campaign to beat malaria? Howling about false, junk science claims that DDT should be used to poison Africa isn’t a ticket to get on that malaria-fighting train.

Mr. Ray responded again:

Thank you again for your interaction. It has been my understanding that many of the claims about the toxicity of DDT to the living groups you have listed has been exaggerated, particularly in regard to the bird populations.
As you might note, malaria control is not my field of expertise, but I have read this claim from two sources over the past decade, but I cannot refer you to them.
I shall remember your ‘corrections’ in any discussion I might have in the future about DDT.

I am certain Dennis has no connections with any businesses in Africa dealing with DDT.

Denial among people who admit that they don’t know much about the topic is really quite amazing, isn’t it?

I made one more comment, but Ray has held it in his site’s moderation queu for enough days I am convinced he plans to leave it there.  Here is what I posted that he has not yet let through:

Ed Darrell, on February 10, 2011 at 12:49 am said: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Thank you again for your interaction. It has been my understanding that many of the claims about the toxicity of DDT to the living groups you have listed has been exaggerated, particularly in regard to the bird populations.

Peer review research over the past 40 years has borne out the early research from 1945 through 1961 that showed DDT is a killer of birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and small mammals. I am unaware of any study anywhere that denies this toxicity, except with regard to insects who produce new generations quickly enough to evolve resistance and immunity.

Discover magazine looked for studies saying DDT doesn’t harm larger animals, but found none. In November 2007 the magazine noted:

In fact, Carson may have underestimated the impact of DDT on birds, says Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and director of the American Bird Conservancy’s pesticides and birds program. She was not aware that DDT—or rather its metabolite, DDE—causes eggshell thinning because the data were not published until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was eggshell thinning that devastated fish-eating birds and birds of prey, says Fry, and this effect is well documented in a report (pdf) on DDT published in 2002 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The report, which cites over 1,000 references, also describes how DDT and its breakdown products accumulate in the tissues of animals high up on terrestrial and aquatic food chains—a process that induced reproductive and neurological defects in birds and fish.

DDT kills birds outright, through acute poisoning. That was what first sounded the alarms at Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin, and a dozen other places across the U.S. DDT accumulates in fat tissues, and poisons the brains of migrating birds when they are under stress during migration. DDT poisons chicks of birds in the eggs, killing them outright, or making them unable to feed after hatching. DDT makes female birds unable to lay competent eggs (thins the eggshells), which means even if the chick is free of the toxins, the egg can’t protect it through incubation. DDT scrambles the sex organs of birds, making hermaphrodites, and making both genders unable to mate successfully.

Most of these death mechanisms apply in other species, too. The saving grace for humans is that we are so large. DDT doses required for much of this documented damage is much higher than we get. Still, in humans, modest amounts of DDT mimic estrogen, producing premature onset of menses in little girls, and swollen mammaries and shrunken testes in boys.

There are several studies that indicate the carcinogenic effects of DDT are weak in humans. Those studies frequently are touted as having “proven DDT harmless.” Not at all. They only show that DDT isn’t as bad as tobacco in causing cancers. That’s not an endorsement of health.

As you might note, malaria control is not my field of expertise, but I have read this claim from two sources over the past decade, but I cannot refer you to them.

Any source you have will trace back to the junk science promulgated by Steven Milloy, a former henchman of the tobacco lobby, and Gordon Edwards, a formerly respected entomologist who appears to have gone off the deep end with an obsession against Rachel Carson. Neither ever published any research to back up their claims. Edwards is dead, and Milloy is a long-time political propagandist — you won’t see any research from them.

Search Pub-Med. Check the ornithology and wildlife journals. Under U.S. law, were DDT not a deadly toxin, EPA could not ban it. DDT manufacturers sued EPA to overturn the ban, and they lost twice. The courts agree that the evidence against DDT is more than sufficient for regulation of the stuff as EPA did.

I shall remember your ‘corrections’ in any discussion I might have in the future about DDT.

Thank you. Feel free to check my blog, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, for further developments on malaria.

The hoax case for DDT, and against Rachel Carson, the UN, the World Health Organization and all of science and medical care, is getting a significant set of boosts from Tren, Bate and Roberts this winter.  Let us hope, if only for the sake of truth and accuracy, that their stuff doesn’t get any more traction than it already has.

Other recent postings on DDT and malaria and policy


Encore post: Rebutting junk science, “100 things to know about DDT” point #6 (the “500 million saved” or “500 million died” errors)

June 22, 2009

Encore post — originally posted in August 2007.  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.

Steven Milloy and the ghost of entomologist J. Gordon Edwards listed this as point six in their list of “100 things you should know about DDT “[did Edwards really have anything to do with the list before he died?]:

6. “To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT… In little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that otherwise would have been inevitable.”

[National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Research in the Life Sciences of the Committee on Science and Public Policy. 1970. The Life Sciences; Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs; The World of Biological Research; Requirements for the Future.]

In contrast to their citation for the Sweeney hearing record, which leads one away from the actual hearing record, for this citation, the publication actually exists, though it is no longer available in print. It’s available on-line, in an easily searchable format. [I urge you to check these sources out for yourself; I won’t jive you, but you should see for yourself how the critics of Rachel Carson and WHO distort the data — I think you’ll be concerned, if not outraged.] The quote, though troubled by the tell-tale ellipses of the science liar, is accurately stated so far as it goes.

The problems? It’s only part of the story as told in that publication.  The National Academy of Science calls for DDT to be replaced in that book; NAS is NOT calling for a rollback of any ban, nor is NAS defending DDT against the claims of harm. The book documents and agrees with the harms Rachel Carson wrote about eight years earlier.

Sign at the National Academy of Sciences building, Washington, D.C.

Sign at the National Academy of Sciences building, Washington, D.C.

Milloy (and Edwards, he claims), are trying to make a case that the National Academy of Sciences, one of the more reputable and authoritative groups of distinguished scientists in the world, thinks that DDT is just dandy, in contrast to the views of Rachel Carson and environmentalists (who are always cast as stupid and venal in Milloy’s accounts) who asked that DDT use be reduced to save eagles, robins and other songbirds, fish, and other wildlife, and to keep DDT useful against malaria.

First, there is no way that a ban on DDT could have been responsible for 500 million deaths due to malaria.  Calculate it yourself, the mathematics are simply impossible: At about 1 million deaths per year, if we assume DDT could have prevented all of the deaths (which is not so), and had we assumed usage started in 1939 instead of 1946 (a spot of 7 years and 7 million deaths), we would have 69 million deaths prevented by 2008. As best I can determine, the 500 million death figure is a misreading from an early WHO report that noted about 500 million people are annually exposed to malaria, I’m guessing a bit at that conclusion — that’s the nicest way to attribute it to simple error and not malicious lie. It was 500 million exposures to malaria, not 500 million deaths. It’s unfortunate that this erroneous figure found its way into a publication of the NAS — I suppose it’s the proof that anyone can err.

This error, “500 million deaths,” crops up in several publications after it was originally made near the end of the 1960s; honest researchers would get a good copy editor who would do the math and realize that 500 million people would not have died from malaria had there been no control at all, since 1939, when DDT was discovered to have insecticidal properties. Were Milloy and Edwards making a good faith case, I’d excuse it; but Edwards was a scientist and should have known better, Milloy has been spreading this falsehood long enough he could not fail to know better.

But the actual publication from the National Academy of Sciences suggests other issues that JunkScience.com would rather you not know about.

Importantly and specifically, the National Academy of Sciences is calling for broad research 1.) to avoid the problems that DDT presented (problems which Junk Science denies exist), and 2.) to combat the continuing evolution of the insect pests (evolution which Junk Science also denies), and 3.) to provide insecticides that hit specific targets to avoid the collateral damage of harming helpful insects, other animals and especially predators of the harmful insects (more problems that Junk Science pretends do not exist).

Three pages carry references to DDT in the book, The Life Sciences: Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs — The World of Biological Research Requirements for the Future (National Academy of Sciences, 1970). This was a study of the state of science in several areas, with a survey of places particularly ripe for research considering human needs in the world. It was a sort of road map of where governments and other funders of research should spend their research monies in order to have the greatest beneficial effects.

The book suggests the need for extensive funding for research in biology over the following decade or two, or four. Were Milloy and Edwards correct that DDT was the panacea lifesaver, one might wonder why DDT was included in the book at all except to note a great success that precludes need for further research. That’s not what the book says at all.

Among the chief recommendations, NAS said research had to focus on rapidly biodegradable, closely targeted chemical pesticides to replace the DDT-style, long-lived, broad spectrum pesticides. NAS recognized the environmental dangers of DDT first and foremost in the introduction and statement of key recommendations:

It is imperative that new, degradable insecticides and pesticides with highly specific actions be devised and that their ecological consequences be understood, as it is imperative that the full ecological impact of the existing armamentarium of such agents be evaluated. Classical dose responses, evaluated only in terms of mortality or morbidity statistics, will not suffice; such data also must include an assessment in terms of modern knowledge of cell physiology, metabolism, and cytogenetics. [see page 11 of the book.]

These are exactly the things Milloy and Edwards ignore. This is a warning that simple toxicity tests on humans are not enough — pesticides need to be tested for downstream effects. That is what Rachel Carson called for in Silent Spring, research to understand the full effects of chemicals we use in the wild. This recommendation from NAS fully recognizes that chemicals like DDT, while they may offer significant benefits, can at the same time be significantly dangerous and damaging.

From the general introduction, the NAS authors point to three specific DDT-related issues. In general, the NAS view of DDT can be summarized like this: ‘DDT produced some great benefits fighting harmful insects, but its benefits need to be balanced against its great dangers and great potential for long-term damage. DDT is the poster child for beneficial chemicals that are also hazardous. We need to understand all the dangers as well as some of the benefits, in order to make wise decisions on chemical use. In the interim, where we have gaps in our knowledge, we should be careful.’

By carefully selecting only part of a statement by the NAS in one of the three areas of research, and leaving out all the qualifying statements, Milloy and the late Edwards misrepresent what NAS said. NAS was not calling for greater use of DDT. NAS was not calling for continued use of DDT. NAS was not criticizing any of the bans on DDT usage. NAS was saying we don’t know how great is the danger from DDT, and more study is needed; and use of DDT must be restricted in the interim.

Excerpt 1: Crop research

Increase research in rotating crops, herbicides and pesticides: In a section mentioning the need for alternative treatments, and commending organic methods of farming, on page 182 NAS notes the efficacy of crop rotation, and then talks about the need to have several different tools available to get rid of weeds and insect pests.

Similarly, recognition of the insecticidal properties of DDT in 1939, initially used against insects directly injurious to man, indicated the intelligent application of understanding of insect physiology, entomology, pharmacology, and the arts of the organic chemist could prevent crop destruction by insects. To date, the use of 2,4-D has increased yearly even though it has been replaced in part, and DDT is being withdrawn because of concern for its potentially adverse effects on man, transfer to the general environment, prolonged persistence, destruction of beneficial insects and possibly other wildlife, and stimulation of resistance in the target insects. These are now matters of broad general concern, and it is regrettable that public decisions must be made on the basis of our limited knowledge. But these compounds paved the way for modern agriculture. Without their equivalent, modern intensive agriculture is not possible, and, just as the continual breeding of new crop strains is imperative, so too is a continuing search for effective herbicides and pesticides, optimally with specific effects on offending organisms, degradable in the soil and nontoxic to man and animals. Attainment of these goals will require continuously increasing understanding of plant and insect physiology and life cycles.

Control of undesirable species by biological means is, in many ways, the most attractive possibility for future exploration. The notion is by no means new; attempts at such control began late in the nineteenth century. Indeed, some 650 species of beneficial insects have been deliberately introduced into the United States from overseas, of which perhaps 100 are established. These are now major factors in the control of aphids and a variety of scale insects and mealybugs. More recently, microbes and viruses have been considered for these purposes, a few of which are being used; for example, spores of the bacterium B. thuringiensis are used to control the cabbage looper and the alfalfa caterpillar. Some insects have been utilized for control of weeds — e.g., prickly pear in Australia and the Klamath weed in the western United States — while a combination of the cinnabar moth and the ragwort seed fly is required to keep down the population of the toxic range weed, the tansy ragwort.

There is no ringing endorsement for bringing back DDT, but rather a much more sophisticated understanding demonstrated that a variety of tools, some chemical and some living, need to brought to bear in agriculture and health — coupled with a clear understanding that non-beneficial effects need to be studied and understood, for all attempts to control pests for crops, and threats to humans. This is quite contrary to the general tone of Milloy’s and Edwards’s list, and far beyond the misleading snippet they offer.

Near the end of that first paragraph, the NAS call for pesticides that are pest specific, rapidly degradable once released, and nontoxic to humans and other beneficial creatures, targets and shoots directly at DDT, which is non-specific, long-lived in the soil, and toxic to almost everything.

That’s just the first of the three mentions of DDT.

Excerpt 2: Industrial technologies – Pesticide research

The second mention is in a discussion specific to pesticides. The NAS panel recommends research to find safe, short-lived alternatives that target specific pests. DDT is a long-lived toxin that has broad targets. This is a very long entry, but unlike the JunkScience.com guys, I think accuracy is more than one quote ripped out of context; in context, you see that NAS is not defending DDT as a safe, panacea against malaria.

I quote from the NAS publication at length, below; I want you to see that NAS is not contradicting Rachel Carson in any way; in fact, NAS is paying homage to Carson, adopting her calls to action in research and development, while updating the science which showed, in 1969, that Carson was right more than anyone could have known. Because it’s a long quote, I’ll put it in a different color, not boxing it where the formatting gets out of hand:

___________________________

From: The Life Sciences: Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs — The World of Biological Research Requirements for the Future (National Academy of Sciences, 1970)

[Beginning on page 213]

Pesticides

As noted earlier, the properties of DDT and 2,4-D inaugurated a new era in management of our living resources and gave rise to a new industry. Each touched off a wave of research that continues to the present, seeking newer compounds that are species-specific, safe, and degradable. For the moment, the use of such compounds is indispensable; until superior means and materials are found, these compounds are essential to the success of our agriculture, while assisting in maintenance of our woodlands and protection of our health. It is the scale of this use, rather than their intrinsic toxicity, that has properly generated public concern over the effects of these chemicals on the public health. In 1966, total production of all pesticides in the U.S. was 1,012,598,000 pounds.

The rapid increase in use occurred because new pesticides have been developed that control hitherto uncontrolled pests, and broader use of pesticides in large-scale agriculture has increased crop yields significantly. Current trends in crop production involving large acreages, greater use of fertilizers, and intensive mechanized cultivation and harvesting offer particularly favorable opportunities for insect pests and would result in large crop losses to these pests unless control measures were applied.

The increased number of new pesticides in part reflects a second generation of pesticides with more appropriate persistence for economic control of specific pests, more complete control of the pest, less hazard for the applicator, or less hazardous residues on the crop. An additional impetus to the development of the pesticides comes from the fact that many insect pests have developed resistance to the older pesticides. The development of pest resistance does not necessarily entail the development of more dangerous pesticides; the new agent need only be chemically different to overcome resistance. The continuing search for new, more nearly ideal pesticides requires the joint effort of research teams composed of organic chemists, biochemists, pharmacologists, physiologists, entomologists, and botanists. The effort is managed much like the development of new drugs, each chemical entity being tested in a “screen” of a variety of insects.

About 73 percent of the total insecticide usage is in agriculture, and about 25 percent is used in urban areas by homeowners, industry, the military, and municipal authorities. The remaining 2 percent is applied to forest lands, grassland pasture, and on salt and fresh water for mosquito control. Over 50 percent of the insecticide used in agriculture is applied to cotton acreage alone.

When insect-control measures are not used in agriculture, insect pests take 10 to 50 percent of the crop, depending on local conditions. Losses of this magnitude are not readily tolerated in the United States in the face of a rapidly increasing population and a concomitant decrease in agricultural acreage. In this sense, the use of pesticides might be deemed essential at this time for the production and protection of an adequate food supply and an adequate supply of staple fiber. While alternative methods of pest control are under investigation and development, they are not yet ready to displace completely the chemical pesticides, and it appears that a pesticide industry will be required for some years to come.

Pesticides have been tremendously effective, but individual pesticides, like sulfa drugs and antibiotics, tend to lose their effectiveness as species resistance to them develops. Hence, there will be a continuing search for new pesticides as long as pesticides are considered to be required for the economy or the public health. This search will require the continuing participation of able biologists. As with drugs, new pesticides, optimally, should be selectively toxic for specific pests, rather than broadly toxic against a wide variety of pests with serious side-effects on nonpest species. Broad-spectrum pesticides affect an essential enzyme or system common to a wide variety of pests. A selective pesticide, on the other hand, either should affect an essential enzyme or system peculiar to a particular pest or should be applied in such a way that only the particular pest gains access to it.

An interesting example of a selective pesticide is the rodenticide norbormide, which is highly toxic for rats, particularly for the Norway rat. By contrast, the acute oral toxicity of norbormide for other species is much lower, the lethal dose for a great variety of birds and mammals, per kilogram of body weight, being more than 100 times greater. The mechanism of the selective toxic action of the norbormide for rats is not yet elucidated.

Achievement of target specificity requires a sophisticated knowledge of the anatomical, physiological, or biochemical peculiarities of the target pest as compared with other pests or vulnerable nonpests; a pesticide may then be developed that takes advantage of these peculiarities. This is obviously not easy to accomplish, and norbormide may prove to be unique for many years. An alternative is the introduction of a systemic pesticide into the host or preferred food of the target pest. Other pests or nonpests would not contact the pesticide unless they shared the same host or food supply. As an example, a suitable pesticide may be applied to the soil and imbibed by the root system of a plant on which the pest feeds. The pest feeding on the plant then receives a toxic dose. The application of attractants or repellents (for nontarget species) would increase the selectivity of the systemic pesticide. The use of systemic pesticides on plants used for food by humans or domestic animals poses an obvious residue problem.

There has been a strong public reaction against the continued use of pesticides on the grounds that such use poses a potential threat to the public health as well as being a hazard to wildlife. Careful investigations have so far failed to establish the magnitude of the threat to the public health; i.e., there are as yet few if any clear-cut instances of humans who have suffered injury clearly related to exposure to pesticides that have been used in the prescribed manner. Report No. 1379 of the 89th Congress (July 21, 1966)* concluded:

The testimony balanced the great benefits of disease control and food production against the risks of acute poisoning to applicators, occasional accidental food contamination and disruption of fish and wildlife. . . . The fact that no significant hazard has been detected to date does not constitute adequate proof that hazards will not be encountered in the future. No final answer is possible now, but we must proceed to get the answer. (Italics ours [NAS]).

Failure to establish such hazard does not mean that it does not exist. There are no living animals, including those in the Antarctic, that do not bear a body burden of DDT. Large fish kills and severe effects on bird populations have been demonstrated. The large-scale use of these agents has been practiced for less than two decades, and use has increased annually until this year (1969). Whereas the anticholinesterase compounds, which have high acute toxicity (and hence are highly hazardous to the applicator), are readily and rapidly degraded in nature, the halogenated hydrocarbons are not. With time, their concentration in the soil and in drainage basins, lakes, ponds and even the oceans must continue to increase, thereby assuring their buildup in plant and animal tissues. Over a sufficient time period, this is potentially disastrous. And should such a period pass without relief, the situation could not be reversed in less than a century. Because of the large economic benefit to the farmer, it is pointless to adjure him to be sparing; unless restrained by law, he will make his judgment in purely personal economics terms. But mankind badly needs the incremental food made possible by use of effective pesticides, and the enormous benefit to public health of greatly reducing the population of insects that are disease vectors is a self-evident boon to humanity. Thus it is imperative that alternative approaches to pest control be developed with all possible dispatch, while we learn to use available pesticides only where they are clearly necessary and desirable and to apply them in the minimal amounts adequate to the purpose.

A recent development in insect-pest control has been the possible use of juvenile hormone. This hormone, normally produced by insects and essential for their progress through the larval stages, must be absent from the insect eggs if the eggs are to undergo normal maturation. If juvenile hormone is applied to the eggs, it can either prevent hatching or result in the birth of immature and sterile offspring. There is evidence to suggest that juvenile hormone is much the same in different species of insects, and analogs have been prepared that are effective in killing many species of insects, both beneficial and destructive. There would, therefore, be great danger of upsetting the ecological balance if juvenile hormone were applied on a large scale.

What is needed, then, is development of chemical modifications of juvenile hormone that would act like juvenile hormone for specific pests but not for other insects. For example, a preparation from balsam fir, which appears to be such an analog, has been identified and is effective against a family of bugs that attack the cotton plant, but not against other species. If it proves possible to synthesize similar analogs specific for other pests, a new type of pesticide may emerge. If this happens, it will be extremely important to explore possible side-effects on other insect species and on warm-blooded animals before introduction of yet a new hazard into the biosphere.

We cannot rest with existing pesticides, both because of evolving resistance to specific compounds and because of the serious long-term threat posed by the halogenated hydrocarbons. While the search for new, reasonably safe pesticides continues, it is imperative that other avenues be explored. It is apparent that this exploration will be effective only if there is, simultaneously, ever-increasing understanding of the metabolism, physiology, and behavior of the unwanted organisms and of their roles in the precious ecosystems in which they and we dwell.

__________________

* U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Government Operations. Interagency Environmental Hazards Coordination, Pesticides and Public Policy (Senate Report 1379). Report of the Subcommittee on Reorganization and International Organizations (pursuant to S. R. 27, 88th Cong., as amended and extended by S. R. 288), 89th Cong., 2d sess., Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966.

________________________________

Anyone should be able to see from various parts of that excerpt that NAS was not defending DDT as harmless; that instead, NAS was saying that despite its great utility, DDT use needed to be extremely limited, and that substitutes for it needed to be found as quickly as possible — and then, the substitutes need to be researched to make sure they don’t have unintended bad effects, on other species, at other places, at other times.

Excerpt 3: The Great Hazards – Man and his environment

The third excerpt has the money quote — it contains an obvious error of fact, but an error that has been seized upon and trumpeted from one end of the world to the other: The 500 million dead miscalculation. Critics of environmental stewards like to trot this out, sometimes going so far as to accuse Carson and environmentalists of genocide, for the deaths of 500 million people that would have been prevented but for our concerns ‘for a few silly birds.’

I reiterate, the mathematics do not work. If we assumed 5 million deaths to malaria every year for the 20th century, we’d get 500 million deaths. Records indicate total deaths as high as 3 million in some years; since World War II, deaths have averaged about 1 million per year. So, even were it true that DDT bans unnecessarily caused all those deaths (and it’s not true), the total, between 1946 and 2006 would be about 50 million deaths. The “500 million deaths” figure is incorrect by a multiple of 10, at least, in addition to being absolutely in error historically. DDT never offered the realistic hope of eradicating malaria; by 1965, it was already failing where it was applied, and human institutional failures (not environmentalists) prevented its application in places where it might have helped.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) discusses hazards from chemistry and biochemistry, in one of its final chapters studying life sciences and their applications to human affairs. NAS authors write about the need to study causes of deaths and how to prevent them (including lung cancer and smoking), and there is discussion on the difficulty of getting clear answers to every question. In a section titled “Man and his environment,” NAS discusses environmental damage: Deforestation, pollution, and animal and plant extinctions. On page 430, there is an example given of supposedly beneficial chemicals turning toxic once released; DDT is the example:

Then NAS discusses DDT:

Large-scale use of pesticides can start a chain in which these substances concentrate in plant an animal tissues and, when ingested, accumulate in the adipose [fat] tissue of the human body. As an illustration of this process, consider the record of Clear Lake, California, where DDD (a breakdown product of DDT) entered the lake at 0.02 part per million (ppm). A year later, its concentration was 10 ppm in the plankton, 900 ppm in fish that eat the plankton, and 2,700 ppm in fish that eat fish that eat plankton. No data are available concerning people who ate such fish.

* * * * *

The effects of these changes in the environment on man himself are not known.

NAS notes that absence of proof of damage should not imply safety, and the article notes that small doses of pollutants, repeated over time, can cause serious health problems.

And then, on page 432, NAS discusses the harmful, latent effects of substances considered to be beneficial — using DDT as the example:

Until reliable evidence thus obtained becomes available, public health measures designed to minimize exposure to such pollutants are patently advisable. But surely a rule of reason should prevail. To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable. Abandonment of this valuable insecticide should be undertaken only at such time and in such places as it is evident that the prospective gain to humanity exceeds the consequent losses. At this writing, all available substitutes for DDT are both more expensive per crop-year and decidedly more hazardous to those who manufacture and utilize them in crop treatment or for other, more general purposes.

The health problems engendered by undesirable contaminants of the environment may also be raised by substances that are intentionally ingested. Only large-scale, long-term epidemiological research will reveal whether the contraceptive pills, pain killers, sleeping pills, sweetener, and tranquilizers, now consumed on so great a scale, have any untoward long-range effects on their consumers.* Man has always been exposed to the hazards of his environment and it may well be that he has never been more safe than he is today in the developed nations. Food contamination is probably minimal as compared with that in any previous era, communal water supplies are cleaner, and, despite the smog problem, air is probably less polluted than in the era of soft coal or before central heating systems were the norm. Witness the fact that jungle dwelling natives of South America exhibit a considerably higher incidence of chromosomal aberrations in their somatic cells than does the American population. But modern man also increasingly exposes himself to the chemical products of his own technologies and has both the biological understanding to ascertain the extent of such hazards and the prospect of technological innovation to minimize them where they are demonstrated. To do less would be improvident and derelict.

__________________________

* This sentence was written in June 1969. Revelations of the untoward effects of both steroid contraceptives and cyclamates were made public months later.

__________________________

As presented by the “100 facts about DDT” list, all the qualifiers, warnings, and listed harms of DDT are left off. The numbers cited in the quoted section are in error, and considering that the NAS was calling for research into the harms of DDT, research to replace DDT with chemicals that were short-lived, more carefully targeted by species, and fully researched to avoid the collateral harms DDT caused, it seems dishonest to present that edited quote as an endorsement of DDT. It is no endorsement at all.

And so, it is dishonest to present the quote at all so grossly out of context.

Steven Milloy should strike #6 from his list of “100 things you should know about DDT.”

Save

Save


%d bloggers like this: