T Nation

Environmentalism and DDT

I’ve seen some folks here bashing the fact that DDT is no longer used, blaming environmentalists for childrens deaths and so on…

Here is an interesting rebuttal to that concept I found on slashdot:

Yeah, let’s kill millions of people every year, mostly children, by banning mostly harmless DDT!

What utter stupidity! The EPA’s ban on DDT has caused ZERO deaths. By 1972 malaria had been eradicated from the US, so there was no need to spray with DDT (or any insecticide) for malaria control. When there have been some small outbreaks since 1972, they have been eradicated by other, more effective, insecticides. The radical right seems to think that DDT is the only insecticide in existence – and that the EPA regulations are binding on every country in the world.

There is no ban on using DDT to fight malaria and there never has been. DDT is banned for agricultural use (and rightly so because of environmental damage) but can still be used for disease prevention. The radical right pretends that there is a ban so they can blame malaria deaths on environmentalists.

According to the EPA’s December 31, 1972 press release on the DDT ban:

“An end to the continued domestic usage of the pesticide was decreed on June 14, 1972, when William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, issued an order finally cancelling nearly all remaining Federal registrations of DDT products. Public health, quarantine, and a few minor crop uses were excepted, as well as export of the material.”

So it was still legal to use it for public health, quarantine, and to export it.

“The effective date of the EPA June cancellation action was delayed until the end of this year to permit an orderly transition to substitute pesticides”

See that? “Substitute pesticides.” Didn’t know they had those, did you?

"During the past 30 years, approximately 675,000 tons have been applied domestically. The peak year for use in the United States was 1959 when nearly 80 million pounds were applied. From that high point, usage declined steadily to about 13 million pounds in 1971, most of it applied to cotton.

The decline was attributed to a number of factors including increased insect resistance, development of more effective alternative pesticides, growing public and user concern over adverse environmental side effects…"

Again, insects had become increasingly resistand and more effective alternatives already existed.

The World Health Organization’s plan for malaria prevention in Sri Lanka after the tsunami stated:

“Endemic sporadic malaria close to the affected areas transmitted by An.culicifacies, which has been considered DDT-resistant for many years, but is still sensitive to organophosphates, such as malathion, and pyrethroids.”

The mosquitoes in Sri Lanka, as in many other parts of the world, have evolved resistance to DDT. It doesn’t work any more. In fact, that is the reason why they stopped using DDT in Sri Lanka. It wasn’t because of any ban. It was because it became ineffective. If the radical right wasn’t so busy trying to ban the teaching of evolution, they might have less trouble grasping the concept that mosquitoes evolve resistance to DDT. Fortunately, the World Health Organization does not consist of flat-Earth conservatives, so they sent malathion to Sri Lanka – which can actually kill the mosquitoes there.

Before you waste all of our time with the much-repeated claim by the right that aid organizations won’t fund DDT spraying to control malaria, I’ll shoot that claim down, too:

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria finances some DDT spraying in Somalia. USAID pays for some spraying of DDT to prevent malaria in developing countries.

According to a news story from the July 18, 2005 issue of The Monitor (Uganda), Dr Herbert Wilson Lwanga, the Executive Director of the Community Welfare Services, said his agency had received funding for DDT spraying programs from the Global Fund…

Evidently, you’ve never heard of West Nile virus, and the fact that DDT could have effectively wiped this sickness off the face of the earth.

But maybe you have, and you just decided to post a piece that never gets out of the 70’s.

Better now - Pookie?

[quote]rainjack wrote:
never ges out og he 70’s.[/quote]

I think your dentures slipped a bit there…

So I don’t spell check. Sue me.

I thought it said “Environmentalism and EDT”, and then I REALLY wondered WTF Staley is doing out there in Area 51.

Bastard

[quote]rainjack wrote:
never ges out og he 70’s.

pookie wrote:
I think your dentures slipped a bit there…[/quote]

don’t you love it when someone quotes you, and then you go back and edit out the mistake?

[quote]BFG wrote:
rainjack wrote:
never ges out og he 70’s.

pookie wrote:
I think your dentures slipped a bit there…

don’t you love it when someone quotes you, and then you go back and edit out the mistake?[/quote]

Kinda kills the joke a little, doesn’t it?

Now I have to find something witty to say about the new post and go back and edit mine… snif.

Is DDT still manufactured in the US?

Rainjack,

First, it wasn’t my rebuttal. Second, the rebuttal says there are alternatives and that bugs were becoming resistant to DDT anyway.

Why not use other pesticides to eliminate the West Nile problem? Is DDT the only thing that would have worked, or is that just a talking point?

Anyway, DDT wasn’t outlawed for the use you suggest, according to the rebuttal… did you read the thing at all?

[quote]vroom wrote:
Rainjack,

First, it wasn’t my rebuttal. Second, the rebuttal says there are alternatives and that bugs were becoming resistant to DDT anyway.

Why not use other pesticides to eliminate the West Nile problem? Is DDT the only thing that would have worked, or is that just a talking point?

Anyway, DDT wasn’t outlawed for the use you suggest, according to the rebuttal… did you read the thing at all?[/quote]

Evidently you never bothered to read up on West Nile virus. It is a virus carried by…anyone?..anyone?..mosquitoes.

Can you connect the dots on your own. now? I certainly hope so.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Rainjack,

First, it wasn’t my rebuttal. Second, the rebuttal says there are alternatives and that bugs were becoming resistant to DDT anyway.

Why not use other pesticides to eliminate the West Nile problem? Is DDT the only thing that would have worked, or is that just a talking point?

Anyway, DDT wasn’t outlawed for the use you suggest, according to the rebuttal… did you read the thing at all?[/quote]

I can?t believe it I got a side with Vroom.

I did read the entire article. And unless I missed an entire paragraph twice, it never mentions West Nile. In fact the EPA has BANNED the use of DDT in the U.S.

Before you start picking sides - you might want to read up on west Nile sickness that is spreading across the U.S.

From the article[quote]
There is no ban on using DDT to fight malaria and there never has been. DDT is banned for agricultural use (and rightly so because of environmental damage) but can still be used for disease prevention. [/quote]
Disease[West Nile] prevention.

Rainjack, I think you missed more than one paragraph…

However, as pointed out above by other posts, or below in the following paragraph, there are really big holes in your statements.

The mosquitoes in Sri Lanka, as in many other parts of the world, have evolved resistance to DDT. It doesn’t work any more. In fact, that is the reason why they stopped using DDT in Sri Lanka. It wasn’t because of any ban. It was because it became ineffective. If the radical right wasn’t so busy trying to ban the teaching of evolution, they might have less trouble grasping the concept that mosquitoes evolve resistance to DDT. Fortunately, the World Health Organization does not consist of flat-Earth conservatives, so they sent malathion to Sri Lanka – which can actually kill the mosquitoes there.

I don’t really have a strong opinion on this, but here’s an article backing the use of DDT.

Avoiding the West Nile virus.

By Henry I. Miller

The six-year-old U.S. outbreak of West Nile virus is a significant threat to public health and shows no signs of abating. Last year, there were more than 2,500 serious cases and 100 deaths. Though still early in the West Nile virus season (there is a time lag during which animals are infected, mosquitoes convey the virus to humans, and the virus incubates until symptoms occur), this year the mosquito-borne virus has been found in animal hosts (primarily birds) in 39 states, and has caused more than a hundred serious infections and three human deaths in 18 states.

Typical of local developments around the country, the desire to prevent West Nile virus induced property owners in two California counties on August 2 to approve fees to fund the fight against the mosquitoes that spread the disease. In Santa Clara County, property owners voted to raise yearly assessments more than 160 percent. However, thanks to politically correct but preposterous decisions by federal regulators, the tools available to local officials are limited ? and largely ineffective.

The website of the Centers for Disease Control suggests several measures to escape West Nile virus infection: “avoid mosquito bites” by wearing clothes that expose little skin, using insect repellent, and staying indoors during peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn); “mosquito-proof your home” by removing standing water, and installing and maintaining screens; and “help your community” by reporting dead birds.

Conspicuously absent from its list of suggestions is any mention of insecticides or widespread spraying. Anyone curious about the role of pesticides in battling mosquitoes and West Nile is directed to a maze of other websites.

Perhaps the Atlanta-based CDC officials don’t get out much. You don’t have to be a rocket entomologist to know that emptying birdbaths and the saucers under flower pots is not going to get rid of a zillion hungry mosquitoes.

In the absence of a vaccine (the development of which has policy problems of its own), elimination of the vehicle that spreads the disease ? in this case, the mosquito ? ought to be the key to preventing epidemics, but fundamental shortcomings in public policy limit the weapons that are available.

In 1972, on the basis of data on toxicity to fish and migrating birds (but not to humans), the Environmental Protection Agency banned virtually all uses of the pesticide DDT, an inexpensive and effective pesticide once widely deployed to kill disease-carrying insects. (How ironic that regulators banned DDT largely for its toxicity to birds, for now it’s unavailable to combat a mosquito-borne disease that killing birds by the hundreds of thousands!)

Allowing green politics to trump science, regulators also cited the possibility that DDT posed a cancer risk for humans, an assertion based on studies in mice that were fed extremely high doses of the pesticide. The validity of extrapolating these high-dose animal studies to minuscule exposures in humans was, and remains, in doubt.

Not only did government regulators underplay scientific evidence of the effectiveness and relative safety of DDT, they also failed to appreciate the distinction between its large-scale use in agriculture and more limited application for controlling carriers of human disease. Although DDT is a (modestly) toxic substance, there is a big difference between applying large amounts of it in the environment ? as American farmers did before it was banned ? and applying it carefully and sparingly to fight mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects. A basic principle of toxicology is that the dose makes the poison.

The regulators who banned DDT also failed to take into consideration the inadequacy of alternatives. Because it persists after spraying, DDT works far better than many pesticides now in use, some of which are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. Also, the need to spray other insecticides repeatedly ? especially in marshlands and forests, where mosquitoes tend to breed ? drives up costs and depletes public coffers. Pyrethroid pesticides, the most common alternative to DDT, are inactivated within an hour or two.

The spraying of any pesticides ? let alone DDT ? has been greeted by near-hysterical resistance from environmental activists, who have attacked the killing of mosquitoes as “disrupting the food chain.” New York’s Green-party literature declares that “These diseases only kill the old and people whose health is already poor.”

Since the banning of DDT, insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue ? and now West Nile virus ? have been on the rise. The World Health Organization estimates that malaria kills about a million people annually, and that there are between 300 million and 500 million new cases each year.

How can we drain the public-policy swamp? First, the government should undertake a reevaluation of the voluminous data on DDT that has been compiled since the 1970s, and regulators should make DDT available immediately for mosquito control in the United States.

Second, the United States should oppose international strictures on DDT. This includes retracting American support for the heinous United Nations Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention, which severely stigmatizes DDT and makes it exceedingly difficult for developing countries ? many of which are plagued by malaria ? to use the chemical.

Finally, federal officials should embark on a campaign to educate local authorities and citizens about the safety and potential importance of DDT. Right now, most of what people hear is the reflexively anti-pesticide drumbeat of the environmental movement. In order to accomplish this, however, senior public-health officials will need to come forth and champion the issue.

Because DDT has such a bad rap, it will be politically difficult to resurrect its use. But we should begin the process now. In the meantime, we’ll just slather on the insect repellent and occasionally become infected with a life-threatening but preventable disease.

? Henry I. Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, headed the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology from 1989-1993.

[quote]vroom wrote:
Rainjack, I think you missed more than one paragraph…

However, as pointed out above by other posts, or below in the following paragraph, there are really big holes in your statements.

The mosquitoes in Sri Lanka, as in many other parts of the world, have evolved resistance to DDT. It doesn’t work any more. In fact, that is the reason why they stopped using DDT in Sri Lanka. It wasn’t because of any ban. It was because it became ineffective. If the radical right wasn’t so busy trying to ban the teaching of evolution, they might have less trouble grasping the concept that mosquitoes evolve resistance to DDT. Fortunately, the World Health Organization does not consist of flat-Earth conservatives, so they sent malathion to Sri Lanka – which can actually kill the mosquitoes there.[/quote]

I read that. But it is not why the EPA banned DDT for use on mosquitoes in the U.S.

This ‘piece’ that you have posted is a rebuttal to the truth. I don’t buy it for a second. WHY?

Our town was overrun by mosquitos last summer. The city tried to purchase some DDT - but was told that it was illegal even to have DDT in their possession. In the meantime there were 4 documented cases of West Nile sickness in our county.

I could give a shit what the effects of DDT are on the mosquitoes in freakin Sri Lanka. I’m more concerned with the lives of the folks in my own county.

Your ‘piece’ is a piece of shit. I have personal experience in just how much of a lie it is.

But you keep on posting shit and expecting people to believe it is truth if you want to. I’ll call bullshit on it, and then you and your girlfriend can call me names.

In 1970, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences estimated that DDT saved more than 500 million lives during the time it was widely used. A scientific review board of the EPA showed that DDT is not harmful to the environment and showed it to be a beneficial substance that “should not be banned.” According to the World Health Organization, worldwide malaria infects 300 million people. About 1 million die of malaria each year. Most of the victims are in Africa, and most are children.

In Sri Lanka, in 1948, there were 2.8 million malaria cases and 7,300 malaria deaths. With widespread DDT use, malaria cases fell to 17 and no deaths in 1963. After DDT use was discontinued, Sri Lankan malaria cases rose to 2.5 million in the years 1968 and 1969, and the disease remains a killer in Sri Lanka today. More than 100,000 people died during malaria epidemics in Swaziland and Madagascar in the mid-1980s, following the suspension of DDT house spraying. After South Africa stopped using DDT in 1996, the number of malaria cases in KwaZulu-Natal province skyrocketed from 8,000 to 42,000. By 2000, there had been an approximate 400 percent increase in malaria deaths. Now that DDT is being used again, the number of deaths from malaria in the region has dropped from 340 in 2000 to none at the last reporting in February 2003.

In South America, where malaria is endemic, malaria rates soared in countries that halted house spraying with DDT after 1993 – Guyana, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. In Ecuador, DDT spraying was increased after 1993, and the malaria rate of infection was reduced by 60 percent. In a 2001 study published by the London-based Institute for Economic Affairs, “Malaria and the DDT Story,” Richard Tren and Roger Bate say that “Malaria is a human tragedy,” adding, “Over 1 million people, mostly children, die from the disease each year, and over 300 million fall sick.”

Spraying a house with small amounts of DDT costs $1.44 per year; alternatives are five to 10 times more, making them unaffordable in poor countries. Rich countries that used DDT themselves threaten reprisals against poor countries if they use DDT.

One really wonders about religious groups, the Congressional Black Caucus, government and non-government organizations, politicians and others who profess concern over the plight of poor people around the world while at the same time accepting or promoting DDT bans and the needless suffering and death that follow. Mosquito-borne malaria not only has devastating health effects but stifles economic growth as well.

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

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

“Resistance” may be a misleading term when discussing DDT and mosquitoes. While some mosquitoes develop biochemical/physiological mechanisms of resistance to the chemical, DDT also can provoke strong avoidance behavior in some mosquitoes so they spend less time in areas where DDT has been applied – this still reduces mosquito-human contact. “This avoidance behavior, exhibited when malaria vectors avoid insecticides by not entering or by rapidly exiting sprayed houses, should raise serious questions about the overall value of current physiological and biochemical resistance tests. The continued efficacy of DDT in Africa, India, Brazil, and Mexico, where 69% of all reported cases of malaria occur and where vectors are physiologically resistant to DDT (excluding Brazil), serves as one indicator that repellency is very important in preventing indoor transmission of malaria.”

[See, e.g., J Am Mosq Control Assoc 1998 Dec;14(4):410-20; and Am J Trop Med Hyg 1994;50(6 Suppl):21-34]

The EPA’s ban on DDT was poorly thought out.

A more balanced use of pesticides including DDT would have been a much better way to handle it.

DDT was overused because it was cheap.

The truth on this issue is somewhere in the middle.

Rainjack,

Any chance you will ever develop the ability to discuss issues rationally, or do you just like to shout your opinion loudest as if that means you are always right?

I’m the first to admit I don’t know hell of a lot about DDT, and that the item in question is not my own. If you have anything reasonable to say that refutes it, then go ahead.

As with any issue, there are certainly two sides to it, and both sides are often out twisting wording to come up with implications that drive the general public to extremes.

It obviously works well on you anyway.