Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Over the years I've writing lots about DDT's use in the fight against malaria, my interest in the subject sparked by the obvious misrepresentations of computer programmer Tim Lambert and bean-counter John Quiggin. Both are DDT ban denialists, refusing to acknowledge that the 1972 US DDT ban encouraged environmentalists to campaign against DDT use in developing countries and prompting the WHO, USAID and the World Bank to discourage the anti-malaria use of DDT. Both loudly and frequently accuse anyone who describes or discusses this de facto DDT ban of propagating what they call the "DDT ban myth".

In his most recent DDT post Lambert accuses a new book of repeating the DDT ban myth for containing the following:
Over the last few decades, however, the WHO has discouraged the use of DDT in member states â encouraged by environmentalists, who have often massively overstated the negative effects of DDT on human and animal health (Roberts et al., 2000). Until recently, most Western aid agencies discouraged the use of DDT and indoor residual spraying generally, and the WHO has provided little financial assistance to those governments that wish to go down this route.
The excerpt above is, of course, factually correct. No matter, the typical Deltoid anti-DDT gang-wank ensues in comments. Anyone with an interest in the anti-malaria use of DDT should read through the thread.

Along the way Quiggin tries to catch me out on a technicality, instead displaying his ignorance, his bias, or both:
Do you even read your own links, JFB? To quote from the EPA document you cite:

"Public health, quarantine, and a few minor crop uses were excepted, as well as export of the material." (emphasis added).

DDT isn't used for public health purposes in wealthy or even middle-income countries because there are superior, though more costly alternatives. But it wasn't banned in the US in 1972 and it never has been.
The title of the cited EPA document (a press release): "DDT Ban Takes Effect". And the EPA's not alone in thinking the US banned DDT, here's professor Quiggin at Crooked Timber:
Now it’s turned out that one of the hardiest of parallel universe beliefs, the claim that Rachel Carson and the US ban on DDT were responsible for millions of deaths in the third world, arises from the same source.
Ironically, the "US ban on DDT" link is to an earlier Quiggin post attacking non-experts who write on subjects they supposedly know little about.

Quiggin and Lambert get very little right when discussing DDT's use in the fight against malaria, nothing they write on the subject should be accepted as accurate.


Anonymous the_real_jeffs said...

Ed, you are the one leaping to unwarranted conclusions. I never said that "DDT is perfectly safe". I understand that DDT is a pesticide, but it can be used selectively, not indiscriminately.

Don't put words in my mouth.

As for Lambert and Quiggin, there's been plenty of discussion. analysis, and evidence of their dishonesty. I've debated both a few times on other subjects, and they pretty much follow your behavior patterns: assert, ignore, distort, and/or make up things. You merely "spice" up the discussion with hysteria.

11:51 PM  

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