Friday, August 10, 2007


U.S. school teacher Ed Darrell's blog Millard Fillmore's Bathtub is meant to be an educational aid and I must admit he does produce some historical posts well worth reading. Unfortunately, as a lefty, he just can't help himself, producing a number of complete rubbish anti-DDT posts. This is not unexpected as he proudly proclaims he's mentored by serial misrepresenter Tim Lambert: Lambert's growing influence becoming obvious during comment exchanges over several threads.

Being a lefty, Darrell is inclined to wordiness -- some of his comments running past two thousand words -- so it's a bit difficult to extract excerpts from the fog of verbiage. To keep this post as brief as possible I am therefore taking the liberty of distilling his various positions down to their essence -- like his mentor, Darrell's positions on DDT are, well, somewhat fluid.

Darrell claims:
  1. Rachel Carson is a near saint. (Maybe.)
  2. Rachel Carson is a saint. (Only if you're blinded by faith.)
  3. Dr Bruce Ames is silly for not recognizing the carcinogenic potency of synthetic chemicals. (A school teacher claims to know more about cancer than a world famous cancer specialist.)
  4. Dr Bruce Ames isn't silly, merely misled -- he probably hasn't read Silent Spring. (So stupid it doesn't deserve comment.)
  5. Any substance causing cancer in laboratory animals must be a human carcinogen. (Not even close.)
  6. Some substances cause cancer in laboratory animals but not in humans -- this has something to do with human body weight, or something. (???)
  7. Water is a carcinogen. (Idiotic.)
  8. Water is not a carcinogen, it's merely toxic. (Merely ludicrous.)
  9. Selenium is carcinogenic. (Nope.)
  10. DDT is not banned in Europe. (Pesticide Action Network says it's banned.)
  11. DDT is acutely toxic. (It's actually less toxic to humans than caffeine.)
  12. DDT doesn't affect sub-Saharan mosquitoes because they do not rest on internal walls. (Some do, some don't.)
  13. DDT fell into disfavour because it was no longer effective at killing mosquitoes. (DDT resistance played a minor role in some areas but wasn't the deciding factor.)
  14. DDT is carcinogenic to humans despite its omission from the list of known human carcinogens. (The International Agency for Research on Cancer doesn't have a clue, apparently.)
  15. DDT is linked to breast cancer. (Iffy.)
  16. DDT is not linked to breast cancer. (Probably correct.)
  17. Trichloroethane and trichloroethylene are carcinogens, therefore Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane must be carcinogenic. (A rash assumption.)
  18. Long Island osprey ingested a dose of DDT 10 million times greater than the amount sprayed. (Them's some big fuckin' magical birds.)
  19. The American Cancer Society doesn't have a clue about carcinogens. (I think they probably know lots more than Darrell.)
  20. Indoor Residual Spraying requires willy-nilly spraying of DDT into the environment. (Only a tiny amount is required and this remains confined indoors.)
  21. In banning DDT EPA administrator Ruckelshaus did not overrule DDT hearing judge Edmund Sweeney. (Yes he did.)
  22. Contemporaneous newspaper accounts of Sweeney's refusal to ban DDT are bogus. (No they aren't.)
  23. Rachel Carson was a great scientist. (She wrote well but made no significant scientific contribution.)
  24. Rachel Carson was wise. (Maybe.)
  25. DDT kills people. (There is not one documented DDT caused death.)
  26. DDT can cause leukemia within months of exposure. (Nope.)
  27. DDT fell into disfavour because of its acute toxicity. (It's not all that toxic.)
  28. DDT use in Borneo caused a typhus epidemic. (A few cats died and some roofs rotted but there was no epidemic.)
  29. I'm an idiot for not agreeing with Darrell's hysterical nonsense. (Only an idiot would agree with him.)
  30. A DDT ban was averted only through the efforts of environmentalists. (The guy turns reality on its head.)
The points above derive from Darrell's insane posts and commentary here and here.

Warning: reading the guy's stuff will do nothing good for your IQ.

Update: Darrell attempts to Fisk point six from Junk Science's list of "100 things you should know about DDT". Point six amounts to a succinct 76 words; Darrell's Fisking is, at 4,778 words, a real mind number. His main point -- it is hard to tell -- seems to be that he's better at maths than is the National Academy of Sciences. There ain't no self-esteem shortage at the Darrell house.


Anonymous J F Beck said...

Short or long, Darrell gets picked apart; it's all crap.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Orion said...

AFAIK only one study showed detectable eggshell thinning after exposing birds to DDT; it was later found that the bird feed used during the experiment contained no calcium. The breakdown product DDE is *supposed* to cause thinning but no mechanism has been identified and most species of birds showed no thinning whatsoever when it was added to their feedstock.

There's some evidence that shell thinning began 50 years before DDT was introduced and if bird populations have indeed "rebounded" since DDT was banned in the US thousands of other chemicals have been banned or simply discontinued, too during the same time period.

Meanwhile 2 million people die each year from malaria. This seems to be the only verifiable "legacy" of the DDT ban.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous J F Beck said...

It is not factually correct to claim that DDT nearly caused the extinction of bald eagles.

11:05 PM  

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