Sunday, September 19, 2010

Malaria, DDT and two idiots

Self-proclaimed malaria expert and political blogger masquerading as a science blogger, Tim Lambert, takes exception to the following from Indur Goklany:

For instance, malaria incidences in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) dropped from 2.8 million in the 1940s to less than 20 in 1963 (WHO 1999a, Whelan 1992). DDT spraying was stopped in 1964, and by 1969 the number of cases had grown to 2.5 million.

Lambert offering "what really happened in Sri Lanka":

With widespread resistance of A. culicifacies to DDT, malathion spraying was introduced in 1975 in areas of P.falciparum transmission affording protection to nearly one million people. Towards the end of 1976 DDT spraying was completely discontinued and during 1977 exclusively malathion was used as an adulticide.

Lambert doesn't seem to notice the two different time periods.

What's really interesting here, however, is Lambert's choice of reference material for events in Sri Lanka. In the past he has consistently linked to one of his earlier posts – Lambert is an habitual self-linker – citing "the definitive history of malaria", Gordon Harrison's Mosquitoes, Malaria and Man. Lambert has stopped relying on Harrison because the cited passage makes it clear Sri Lanka was under "manifold political and economic pressures to get off the DDT wherever it seemed even marginally possible." The political pressures undoubtedly came from environmentalists.

Following Lambert's exposure as an unreliable source on all matters of consequence he seldom blogs on DDT and malaria, largely restricting himself to attacks on the hapless Christopher Monckton. You know, posts that appeal to his faithful following of climate change true believers.

Anyway, Lambert only offeres his latest DDT post in attempting to save the bacon of protege Ed Darrell, an American educator who has yet again made a total fool of himself by accusing Anthony Watts of alleging that Rachel Carson is a "mass murderer".

You know, if you think about it, those claiming the Internet is dumbing us down could be right. The popularity of Lambert and Darrell proves it.


Anonymous J.M. Heinrichs said...
... but does he really have the legs for it?


10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops... does he...

3:00 PM  
Anonymous karl said...

Let's not lose the forest from the trees here: This whole kerfuffle started because certain bloggers keep pointing to the case of the Sri Lanka as an example of the effectiveness of DDT and the (alleged) perils of not use it--a fairy tale about how environmentalist are evil. It's true that when DDT was first used in Sri Lanka it had a remarkable effect, reducing annual deaths by multiple orders of magnitude. No one disputes this. It's all true that when DDT spraying ceased, malaria came roaring back--again no one disputes this. What is disputed is 1) why DDT spraying was initially stopped and 2) whether renewed DDT spraying would have worked.

The answer to (1) is that DDT spraying was expensive, so once they thought they'd beaten malaria, they stopped using it. It wasn't that they were beholden to the whims of Western environmentalist, it was a question of money. With regard to to (2), DDT spraying was eventually restarted, but it was not nearly as effective as it had been, because in the meantime mosquitoes had developed resistance to DDT. Once the spraying campaigns finally switched over to malathion, malaria incidence went down.

Nothing about the history of malaria in Sri Lanka supports the idea that meddling by environmentalists somehow contributed to unnecessary deaths.

1:15 AM  

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