Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Hopefully, this will be my last post on DDT – see earlier posts here, here and here, but that's pretty much up to Tim Lambert and John Quiggin.

Quiggin and Lambert – what a name for a comedy team, eh? – refuse to acknowledge the role of environmentalists in the de facto banning of DDT in the fight against malaria. Quiggin, probably beginning to realise he has his money on the wrong horse, posted the following in his comments section:
Note that the article cited by JF Beck correctly says that the primary reason for the decline of DDT was the rise of resistance.
DDT was falling out of favor even before the 1962 publication of ‘’Silent Spring,’’ ... DDT had not been sold as a way to control malaria but to eradicate it, so the world would never have to think about malaria again. But eradication failed—it is now considered biologically impossible—and because DDT had not lived up to its billing, disillusion set in. At the same time, DDT’s indiscriminate use was provoking the development of resistance among mosquitoes, and many countries were shifting to decentralized health systems, which meant they were no longer able to organize nationwide house spraying.

Undoubtedly, there have been instances where misguided opposition to DDT led to its abandonment in situations where it would have been useful. Equally, there have been many cases where overenthusiastic use of DDT did more long-run harm than good. None of this justifies the kind of hyperbolic claims made by promoters of the DDT blood libel.
Sure resistance was a problem in general use, which is what the extract above relates to, but for house spraying it's the repellency effect that's important. This has been realised since way back:
The consequences of resistance in terms of malaria and other diseases are indicated by reports from many parts of the world. An outbreak of yellow fever in Trinidad in 1954 followed failure to control the vector mosquito because of resistance. There has been a flare-up of malaria in Indonesia and Iran. …

Some malaria mosquitoes have a habit that so reduces their exposure to DDT as to make them virtually immune. Irritated by the spray, they leave the huts and survive outside.
Thus, very small amounts of DDT can be sprayed on house walls, not to kill mosquitoes, but to keep them outside away from the people inside.

Anyway, Tim Lambert reckons I'm nothing more than an attention seeking fool that should disappear simply because I post comments at his blog that he doesn't like:
Tim Lambert Says:
June 26th, 2005 at 11:24 pm

JF Troll, it is dishonest for you to claim that there is a de facto ban on DDT when it is used in countries containing billions of people.
Tim Lambert Says:
June 28th, 2005 at 1:28 am

Beck, you are a troll because you have repeatedly posted the same specious argument. DDT is not banned. Your intent is not to persuade but just to get attention. Go away.
Fact-check boy Lambert is looking a lot like in-need-of-anger-management boy. Lambert makes no effort whatever to address the substance of my posts. This despite Lambert taking Rafe Champion to task for not posting the correction Lambert thinks warranted, but isn't:
Attempts to get some of those responsible for spreading the false claims about environmentalists and DDT to correct them have proved largely unsuccessful.

Rafe Champion did not make even a token correction.
A correction from Champion isn't warranted because the role of environmentalists, both inside and outside governments, is widely perceived. Further assorted examples of these perceptions follow – see earlier posts linked above for other examples :

Balancing risks on the backs of the poor

Amir Attaran (2), Donald R. Roberts (1), Chris F. Curtis (3) & Wenceslaus L. Kilama (4)

1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Bethesda, Maryland 20814, USA

2 Center for International Development Kennedy School of Government Harvard University Cambridge Massachussetts 02138, USA

3 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London WC1E 7HT, UK

4 Chairman, Malaria Foundation International; also Chairman-Coordinator, African Malaria Vaccine Testing Network C26/27 Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology Building, Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road, P.O. Box 33207 Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Above all, rich countries must allow, and even facilitate, poor tropical countries to make choices about DDT freely, and with informed consent. African countries in particular lack the resources to dispatch health experts to the treaty negotiations, and although it provides financial assistance, the United Nations Environment Programme has declined to assist with this, or even to provide a translator when French- and English-speaking diplomats meet to discuss DDT. The resulting lack of knowledge suffocates debate. At worst, threats are used, as Belize learned when the US Agency for International Development demanded that it stop using DDT.

Such arm-twisting is as lamentable as it is effective. Highly indebted poor countries must of necessity rank poverty reduction over environmental orthodoxy, and stimulating growth and foreign investment will require nearly eliminating malaria from economically productive zones. This is essential for development in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria subtracts more than one percentage point off the gross domestic product growth rate, for a compounded loss (since 1965) now reaching up to $100 billion a year in foregone income32.

Seen in this way, the insistence to do without DDT is 'eco-colonialism' that can impoverish no less than the imperial colonialism of the past did.

Greens vs. the World's Poor

Limited use of DDT could save millions from malaria. So why are environmentalists and the U.N. hellbent on ending its production?

By Ronald Bailey, Reason Science Correspondent

Imagine that an international governing body got together with a cadre of special interests to deny millions of poor people access to a cheap substance capable of saving hundreds of thousands of lives annually. You'd think such an effort would be considered highly immoral, right? Probably even cause street demonstrations, boycotts, and other signs of public outrage.

Well, just such a campaign was launched three years ago by the United Nations Environmental Program, acting in conjunction with several major environmentalist organizations. There have been no demonstrations, no boycotts, and sadly, few signs of outrage.

Why this relentless pursuit of DDT down to the last molecule? Vice-President Albert Gore suggests one answer in his introduction to the 1994 reissue of Silent Spring, a book often cited as the founding text of contemporary environmentalism. Before Carson's book, he writes, "There was virtually no public dialogue about the growing, invisible dangers of DDT and other pesticides and chemicals." The fears that have come down the decades from Rachel Carson are summarized in the WWF Core Issues Statement, which claims that "even small quantities of …POPs can wreak havoc in human and animal tissue, causing nervous system damage, disease of the immune system, reproductive and developmental disorders, and cancers." Eliminating POPs generally, and DDT specifically, are at the very heart of the modern environmentalist movement.

Doing so may be a noble cause to greens, but the cost of success will be measured in human lives. Setting aside health concerns about other POPs, and accepting that using DDT in agriculture harmed wildlife, it simply isn't true that using DDT to control malaria is a health risk.

"The scientific literature does not contain even one peer-reviewed, independently replicated study linking DDT exposures to any adverse health outcome" in humans, says Amir Attaran. "No study in the scientific literature has shown DDT to be the cause of any human health problem," concludes Richard Tren and Roger Bate in When Politics Kill: Malaria and the DDT Story, a new study from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Such facts have failed to undermine environmentalist dogma. "Because Carson’s work led to the ban on DDT," Al Gore concluded in his commemorative introduction to Silent Spring, "It may be that the human species…or at least countless human lives, will be saved because of the words she wrote."

Sadly, it's more likely that, because a blinkered orthodoxy cannot accept the heretical notion that DDT has some beneficial purposes, countless human lives will be lost.

DDT From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

In 1962 Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was published. The book argued that pesticides, and especially DDT, were poisoning both wildlife and the environment and also endangering human health. The public reaction to Silent Spring launched the modern environmental movement in the United States, and DDT became a prime target of the growing anti-chemical and anti-pesticide movements during the 1960s. Charles Wurster, the chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was quoted in the Seattle Times of 5 October 1969, as saying: "If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before. In a sense, much more is at stake than DDT." (Tren & Bate, 2004). However, many of the claims made in Silent Spring were scientifically inaccurate. A 2004 study in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons concludes
"Public pressure was generated by one popular book and sustained by faulty or fraudulent research. Widely believed claims of carcinogenicity, toxicity to birds, anti-androgenic properties, and prolonged environmental persistence are false or grossly exaggerated."
Donor organizations have often refused to fund public health DDT programs[5]. Many countries have been coming under pressure from international health and environment agencies to give up DDT or face losing aid grants: Belize and Bolivia are on record admitting they gave in to pressure on this issue from the US. Agency for International Development. [6]. In 1977 environmental groups sued to ban exports of DDT, after which many countries could no longer obtain any. The World Bank extended $165 million dollars to India's malaria sufferers, but specified that no DDT could be used. Dozens of other countries, where massive numbers of malaria deaths continue to occur, also cannot receive financial aid unless they agree to control mosquitoes by not using DDT. In 1986 Secretary of State George Schultz telegraphed orders to all embassies stating that "The U. S. cannot, repeat cannot, participate in programs using any of the following: (1) lindane, (2) BHC, (3) DDT, or (4) ieldrin." [7]

June, 2002
Journal of Vector Ecology

Role of residual spraying for malaria control in Belize

Donald R. Roberts 1,6, Erol Vanzie 2, Michael J. Bangs 3 , John P. Grieco 1, Hilbert Lenares 2, Paul Hshieh 1, Eliska Rejmankova 4, Sylvie Manguin 5 , Richard G. Andre 1 and Jorge Polanco 2

1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences,
Bethesda, MD 20814-4799

2 Ministry of Health, Belize City, Belize, Central America

3 U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2, Box 3, APO AP 96520-8132

4 Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

5 Centre de Biologie et Gestion des Populations (CBGP), Campus International de Baillarguet, CS 30 016, 34988 Montferrier sur Lez.cedex, France

6 Corresponding Author

Received 27 May 1999; Accepted 4 September 2001

Belize was pressured to stop using DDT by the United States Agency for International Development. Opposition to public health use of DDT also came from environmental and agricultural advocacy groups.

DDT, Global Strategies, and a Malaria Control Crisis in South America

Donald R. Roberts, Larry L. Laughlin, Paul Hsheih, and Llewellyn J. Legters

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Countries are banning or reducing the use of DDT because of continuous international and national pressures against DDT (e.g., the International Pesticide Action Network is "...working to stop the production, sale, and use..." of DDT [14]) and aggressive marketing tactics of producers of more expensive alternative insecticides. It has become easier for political pressures to succeed given the global strategy to deemphasize use of the house-spray approach to malaria control. A recent agreement of the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation for eliminating the production and use of DDT in Mexico within the next 10 years3 is the latest development in the campaign to eliminate DDT.
Resistance has little to do with reduced use of DDT. It was pressure from environmentalists that produced a de facto ban. There's no getting around it.

Quiggin and Lambert are both welcome to comment but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to visit me here at the dark side.


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