Rachel Carson, DDT and the Greens

At the end of 2010 Channel 4 broadcast a fascinating documentary called What the Greens Got Wrong.

There was a lively studio debate afterwards featuring Stewart Brand, Mark Lynas and George Monbiot, with GMOs and nuclear power were the main topics under discussion. Another controversy, perhaps even more fundamental to the canon of Green thinking was also scrutinized, and lead to a somewhat acrimonious exchange between Stewart Brand and George Monbiot: Rachel Carson and DDT.

In his book Whole Earth Discipline Brand writes of the legacy of Rachel Carson and the subsequent *restrictions* on DDT use to combat malaria:

Environmentalists were right to be inspired by marine biologist Rachel Carson’s book on pesticides, Silent Spring, but wrong to place DDT in the category of Absolute Evil (which she did not) … In an excess of zeal that Carson did not live to moderate, DDT was banned worldwide, and malaria took off in Africa. Quoted in a 2007 National Geographic article, Robert Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health said: ‘The ban on DDT may have killed 20m children.’

and rightly, Monbiot asks for sources for this claim: are the Greens really to blame for 20million deaths? This is a serious charge and demands suitably verifiable references.

Brand just refers him back to Robert Gwadz, a source Monbiot apparently has no interest in pursuing, instead over-playing his hand against Brand, as Keith Kloor noted at the time:

Well, to my eyes, Monbiot is swinging wildly with the charge of Brand being little more than a corporate shill. It’s too bad, too, because Monbiot was clearly winning on points with all the tight jabs that did hit their mark in his latest post.

Roll forward three-and-a-half years to yesterday’s World Malaria Day and Monbiot has post discussing his recent interview with another prominent Green Heretic James Lovelock concerning his new book A Rough Ride to the Future in which Lovelock repeats the same claims as Brand, apparently also without references:

Neither Rachel Carson, nor the green movement – nor the US government seemed aware of the dire human consequence of banning the manufacture of DDT and its lookalikes before substitutes were available … In 1963 malaria was about to become effectively controlled. The insecticide ban led to a rise in malaria deaths to 2 million yearly, plus over 100 million disabled by the disease.

Monbiot tells the same story that he told in 2010: there was no worldwide ban; DDT was no longer effective for malaria vector control due to over-use in agriculture; the Stockholm convention which regulates pesticide use permits DDT use for disease vector control; the whole story about DDT bans and millions of deaths is just a trumped up slur against the noble green movement and the honorable legacy of Rachel Carson by right-wing think tanks in the pay of Big Tobacco.

Not so fast. It seems to me there is rather more to this story than Monbiot and other Green apologists would like us to believe.

For a start, with reference to the Tobacco industries’ conspiracy and Monbiot’s claim of “paid astro-turfers” it turns out that things are not so simple. Fascinatingly according to Matt Ridley, Rachel Carson’s mentor William Heuper fully supported her views on DDT and other agrochemical carcinogens, and believed himself that the targeting tobacco as a cause of cancer- which was only really taking off in the 1960s and ’70s- was a plot to detract attention away from agrochemicals.

So obsessed was Hueper with his notion that pesticides and other synthetic chemicals were causing an epidemic of cancer and that industry was covering this up, that he bitterly opposed the suggestion that smoking take any blame – as an industry plot.

Elsewhere, the tobacco industry has also seen its interests threatened by the continuing use of DDT, thus indirectly finding common cause with environmentalists:

Yet British American Tobacco, in a coalition with many other corporations in Uganda, has called for a delay to the spraying program, warning that the use of DDT could threaten lucrative exports of tobacco, coffee, cut flowers and other agricultural products.

It seems to me that Monbiot resorts to paranoid conspiracy theories because he cannot substantiate his claims either. On Twitter yesterday I asked George whether he was 100% sure that environmental campaigns against DDT might not have contributed to the post-mid-1960s resurgence of malaria, sighting this paper on malaria in India:

In 1947, when India became independent, 75 million malaria cases in a population of 330 million were estimated.7 During the eradication era in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a spectacular achievement was witnessed on the malaria eradication front because malaria cases significantly declined to just 100,000 in 1964. However, reversal was experienced, and malaria staged a comeback. By 1976, malaria cases had touched the 6.4 million mark. A continued rise in P. falci-parum was witnessed, and its proportion has gradually risen to nearly 50% in recent years

Monbiot responded tersely:

-but in fact this is quite wrong: drug resistance is a separate issue that made treating malaria much harder, while no mention is made of DDT resistance. The Monbiot refused to correct himself on this, his rude and defensive tone betraying his desperate need to defend the Greens from any historical wrong-doing at all costs:

Instead, he could have simply referenced the Wikipaedia article on DDT which provides a good summary and confirms that DDT resistance was becoming a growing problem in the 1960s threatening to roll back many of the gains made in the previous couple of decades. However, it is NOT clear that this is what lead to the dramatic come-back made by the disease in the late-1960s:

In 1955, the World Health Organization commenced a program to eradicate malaria worldwide, relying largely on DDT. The program was initially highly successful, eliminating the disease in “Taiwan, much of the Caribbean, the Balkans, parts of northern Africa, the northern region of Australia, and a large swath of the South Pacific”[26] and dramatically reducing mortality in Sri Lanka and India.[27] However widespread agricultural use led to resistant insect populations. In many areas, early victories partially or completely reversed and, in some cases, rates of transmission even increased.[28] The program was successful in eliminating malaria only in areas with “high socio-economic status, well-organized healthcare systems, and relatively less intensive or seasonal malaria transmission”.

So, yes, it is indeed true that DDT resistance contributed to a resurgence of malaria in some countries- those without the means for a more comprehensive campaign relying not only on DDT but also including other environmental controls and public health measures; but this does not entirely let the Greens off the hook

A couple of things do not add up in the environmentalists’ defence since we are told repeatedly that DDT was never banned for vector control. The question is, which Monbiot (nor Quiggin and Lambert, who he references) does not address, instead deflecting the attention away with paranoid ramblings about paid astro-turf groups) is whether the 1972 US domestic ban for agricultural use made it hard to get for health workers in the field- this after all was the original claim made by Gwadz:

Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. “The ban on DDT,” says Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, “may have killed 20 million children.”

(emphases added.)

Wiki states:

Spraying programs (especially using DDT) were curtailed due to concerns over safety and environmental effects, as well as problems in administrative, managerial and financial implementation, but mostly because mosquitoes were developing resistance to DDT

So the availability of DDT may be a mute point if it had been found to be ineffective anyway and was no longer being used.

There was indeed an environmental camapaign against DDT in the late-60s post- Silent Spring:

DDT became a prime target of the growing anti-chemical and anti-pesticide movements, and in 1967 a group of scientists and lawyers founded the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) with the specific goal of winning a ban on DDT.

Why was this necessary, one wonders, if DDT was already falling into disuse due to resistance?
According to this statement by the WHO in 2006

Nearly thirty years after phasing out the widespread use of indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides to control malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that this intervention will once again play a major role in its efforts to fight the disease.

-suggesting that DDT for vector control used in IRS (Indoor Residual Spraying) WAS severely curtailed, contradicting somewhat complacent claims by Monbiot that there was no restriction on its use for this purpose.

Wiki cites other reasons for the return of malaria apart from insect resistance:

WHO’s anti-malaria campaign of the 1950s and 1960s relied heavily on DDT and the results were promising, though temporary. Experts tie the resurgence of malaria to multiple factors, including poor leadership, management and funding of malaria control programs; poverty; civil unrest; and increased irrigation.

while countries who stopped using DDT experienced an increase in malaria:

According to DDT advocate Donald Roberts, malaria cases increased in South America after countries in that continent stopped using DDT. Research data shows a significantly strong negative relationship between DDT residual house sprayings and malaria rates. In a research from 1993 to 1995, Ecuador increased its use of DDT and resulted in a 61% reduction in malaria rates, while each of the other countries that gradually decreased its DDT use had large increase in malaria rates.

The reports are mixed: banning DDT for agricultural use may have saved lives by slowing the development of resistance; on the other hand, why was it still permitted- or used- in vector control if resistance had been such a problem? How long after the agricultural ban does resistance stop being a problem? The patterns of resistance and use in agriculture vis-a-vis vector control seem to be complex and vary considerably from country to country.

It has also been alleged that donor governments and agencies have refused to fund DDT spraying, or made aid contingent upon not using DDT. According to a report in the British Medical Journal, use of DDT in Mozambique “was stopped several decades ago, because 80% of the country’s health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT.”[130] Roger Bate asserts, “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 [USAID].”

More weight to the claim that environmental campaigns hindered the availability of DDT in some countries where it was badly needed comes from this letter to The Lancet in 2000, quoted in the comments under Monbiot’s Guardian article yesterday:

Since the early 1970s, DDT has been banned in
industrialised countries and the interdiction was gradually
extended to malarious countries. The bans occurred in
response to continuous international and national
pressures to eliminate DDT because of environmental
concerns…..Despite objections by notable malariologists, the move away from spraying houses was progressively
strengthened by WHO’s malaria control strategies of 1969,
1979, and 1992. These strategies were adopted even
though published WHO documents and committee reports
have consistently and accurately characterised DDT sprayed
houses as the most cost effective and safe approach
to malaria control…..Other mechanisms also have been used by
environmental advocates to stop use of DDT for malaria
control. A recent example is the agreement of the North
American Commission for Environmental Cooperation
(CEC) that forced Mexico to stop producing and using
DDT for malaria control. This agreement also eliminated
a rare source of DDT for malaria control in other countries
in South America…….Numerous epidemics have occurred in many countries,
after suspension of DDT house treatments, such as
Swaziland (1984) and Madagascar (1986–88), where
malaria killed more than 100 000 people….Today, few countries still use DDT and most have no way to even buy this insecticide…The position of
many scientists concerned about increasing malaria was
described in an open letter that was subsequently signed
by over 380 scientists, including three Nobel laureates in
medicine, representing 57 countries. The letter supports
continued use of DDT and residual spraying of houses for
malaria control.

This letter was covered by the Guardian at the time:

“While it is true that we don’t know every last risk of using DDT, we know very well what the risk of malaria is – and on balance malaria is far, far more deadly than the worst that one could imagine about DDT,” said Amir Attaran, director of the Malaria Project in Washington. He and the Malaria Foundation International organised the open letter.

In 2001, Greenpeace were campaigning to “close down the only major DDT production facility in the world, located in Cochin, India.”

Others who could claim to have some personal experience in malaria-torn countries and the use of DDT in both agriculture and disease control who finger the Greens include
- Norman Borlaug (though he makes no reference to the possibility that resistance had become a problem); and
-Anthony Trewavas in a letter to Nature (which I do not have access to);

According to an editorial in The Economist in 2000

In the early 1990s, for example, the United States Agency for International Development stopped the governments of Bolivia and Belize from using DDT. In Madagascar, the United Nations Development Programme tried to persuade the government to replace DDT with Propoxur, a less effective pesticide. To its credit, Madagascar refused. In Mozambique, both NORAD, the Norwegian development agency, and SIDA, its Swedish counterpart, said that they could not support the use of DDT, as it was banned in their own countries. That the problems of a desperately poor malarial country in Africa might be somewhat different from those of wealthy, non-malarial Scandinavia seems not to have occurred to them.

Monbiot would have is believe that all of these opinions of experts- including Gwadz and Roberts who are experts in the field with decades of experience in malaria control, and the 380 scientists and malaria experts including three Nobel Laureates who signed the Washington Malaria Project Open Letter are just the lazy and ideological parrots of a conspiracy perpetrated by tobacco industry shills.

To accept this is to deny the wider legacy and ideological roots of the environmental movement. As Jon Entine expalains in his book Scared to Death- How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health the post- Silent Spring DDT debate took place in the context of a growing political environmentalism that was often misanthropic in nature:

The issue of restricting population growth played into the debate over DDT in a disconcerting way. The public was confronted with Ehrlich’s (erroneous) conviction that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in coming decades because of overpopulation. The issue of withdrawing anti-malarial programs as a means of population control was broadly discussed and debated. In his book, Ehrlich himself appeared to “blame” DDT for saving lives, exacerbating the overpopulation problem: “The introduction of DDT in 1946 brought rapid control over the mosquitoes which carry malaria. As a result, the death rate on the island [of Ceylon] was halved in less than a decade. … Death control [DDT use] did not reach Colombia until after World War II. … Each child adds to the impossible burden of a family and to the despair of a mother.” (Ehrlich 1968)

As with many other instances of over-zealous application of the Precautionary Principle, Entine explains:

The paradigmatic example of an overreaction is what happened to DDT, the insecticide targeted by Rachel Carson. DDT remains the totemic villain of the environmental movement, but it has saved more lives from malaria and other insect-borne diseases than any other chemical. In retrospect, the ban on DDT has proven to be a mistake of tragic proportion. In the early 1960s, several developing countries had nearly wiped out malaria. After they stopped using the insecticide, other control methods had only modest success and malaria came raging back. In one of many examples, in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), DDT spraying had reduced malaria cases from 2.8 million in 1948 to 17 by 1963.

Entine concludes that although most environmental NGOs now accept DDT use for vector control, they should not be let ignore the costs of past actions:

Given the state of the science at the time Carson wrote her book, one might generously make the case that her concerns about the potentially unknown effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were not unwarranted. Some key facts were unclear. But after four decades chasing the potential risks of DDT and certain other chemicals without measurably improving world health, and is some cases degrading it, her followers in the environmental movement bear the responsibility of wasting billions of dollars and destroying millions of lives.

Exaggerated environmental alarmism is liable to cause, and is responsible for, a great deal of human suffering, a current issue being the campaign by Greenpeace and the Organic movement against Golden Rice. This is an asymmetric story of wealthy westerners with idealistic environmental obsessions interfering with the much more immediate life-and-death concerns of the poor. The South African journalist Ivo Vegter points out in his book Extreme Environment: How environmental exaggeration harms emerging economies how convenient it was for the US to plan a ban on DDT use in 1971, just after the last developed nation had eradicated malaria from its own shores.

He sums up the DDT debate:

Both sides are wrong. Both sides are guilty of exaggeration. And neither side does the rest of us any favours by their shrill extremism.
Rachel Carson was not evil. She raised very real problems, which in the preceding years had several times made newspaper headlines across her native United States….

In particular, Carson did not advocate ignoring insect-born diseases merely because combating them might require chemical pesticides. What she actually said was ‘Practical advice should be “spray as little as you possibly can” rather than “Spray to the limit of your capacity”‘.

Monbiot is right to challenge the hyperbole of comparing Rachel Carson to Hitler and blaming her personally for tens of millions of deaths, but this does not exonerate the environmental movement which continues to try to ban useful and life-saving technology due to narcissistic fears more than any science, from GMOs to nuclear power to neonicotinoids.

And Monbiot is guilty of his own hyperbole when it suits him. He calls out Lovelock:

James repeats and embellishes an extraordinary and disgraceful myth, first circulated a few years ago by corporate-funded astroturfers, that green campaigners are responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

But is this really any worse than Monbiot himself making unsubstantiated hyperbolic claims such as this about climate change?

This is the great moral issue of the twenty-first century, and if we don’t deal with climate change, we condemn hundreds of millions of people to death.

Is not this accusation -that those who obstruct (a particular kind of) “action on climate” are “worse than Hitler” the origin of the word “denier” which Monbiot is happy to use himself in his rhetoric?

Stay tuned- this is a topic I hope to return to quite soon….

Leave a comment

32 Comments

  1. Interesting and challenging blog post. As is often the case, the real answer to the posed questions appears to be “it’s complicated”.

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  2. Once again, you have provided tantalizing food for thought.

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  3. Outstanding post.

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  4. As far as I can tell, Gwadz has never written anything on DDT. He works on malaria, but mainly on parasites. Still, he must know that DDT hasn’t been banned and that an estimate of 20 million deaths from restrictions on IRS is absurd. So, I doubt that he actually sais it.

    The alleged quote (no sourcing details) to which you refer appeared in a National Geographic article by one Michael Finkel, most notable for having been fired by the NY Times for fraud

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Finkel

    Almost certainly, Finkel put the words in Gwadz’ mouth: there are quite a few ways to do this if you’re kind of journalist who’s willing to work with “composite’ (ie invented) characters.

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  5. As regards the WHO 2006 statement, it was made by the incoming director, Arana Kochi, who was brought in as a political headkicker. He saw the need to placate US rightwingers, so he took a minor tweak to the policy (from ” areas of seasonal or episodic transmission” to include “areas of continuous, intense transmission of the disease”) and packaged it as a big change. DDT was a minor part of the anti-malaria strategy before 2006, and it’s still a minor part.

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  6. Finally, you regard reference to the role of tobacco lobbyists (Singer, Bate, Milloy, Mooney and others) in pushing the DDT myth as “paranoid”. Care to explain this? Is it paranoid to accuse the tobacco industry of lying to protect its interests, as it has done for decades? If so, why the silly tu quoque about Heuper who was, after all, correct about asbestos and lots of other occupational hazards?

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    • Hi John thanks for commenting.
      “Almost certainly, Finkel put the words in Gwadz’ mouth…” -the plot thickens!

      The National Geographic article is clearly referenced and linked to
      in my post in the first block quote from Brand. Here is the context of the Gwadz quote:

      Soon after the program collapsed, mosquito control lost access to its crucial tool, DDT. The problem was overuse—not by malaria fighters but by farmers, especially cotton growers, trying to protect their crops. The spray was so cheap that many times the necessary doses were sometimes applied. The insecticide accumulated in the soil and tainted watercourses. Though nontoxic to humans, DDT harmed peregrine falcons, sea lions, and salmon. In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, documenting this abuse and painting so damning a picture that the chemical was eventually outlawed by most of the world for agricultural use. Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. “The ban on DDT,” says Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, “may have killed 20 million children.”

      The “20milion” presumably equates to between 1/2million- 1 million deaths a year over a 20-year period; I agree that this seems at least hyperbolic, attributing perhaps 50% or more of ALL malaria deaths to just lack of access to DDT.

      Are you claiming that Finkel was also in the pay of Big Tobacco?

      a minor tweak to the policy (from ” areas of seasonal or episodic transmission” to include “areas of continuous, intense transmission of the disease”)

      can you give any data to explain why this is a “minor” tweak? Without some information on numbers of deaths/incidence attributed to each of these two categories, it would seem to me that it could indeed constitute a very major tweak. But I am not a actually sure which this is referring to- a change of policy wrt where DDT use was permitted/advocated?

      DDT was a minor part of the anti-malaria strategy before 2006, and it’s still a minor part.

      but you also state

      Meanwhile, the DDT-based eradication campaign against malaria ran into the trouble Carson had warned about. The high-water mark of the campaign came in 1964. Sri Lanka had reduced its number of malaria cases from millions after the end of the war to just 29. The country declared victory over malaria and suspended spraying. WHO called the eradication programme “an international achievement without parallel in the provision of public health service.”

      But then malaria returned to Sri Lanka. In 1968-69, there were half a million cases. The country went back to spraying DDT, but because it had been extensively used in agriculture, mosquitoes had evolved resistance. The insecticide became less and less effective, eventually forcing Sri Lanka to switch to an alternative, malathion, in the mid-1970s. Other countries in the eradication program suffered similar setbacks, and by 1969, the 22nd World Health Assembly concluded that the goal of global eradication of malaria was not feasible.

      - which seems to more support Monbiot’s claim that the dramatic return of malaria in the mid-60s was indeed a result of DDT developing resistance due to over-use in agriculture. Both cannot be true: we seem to be being told on the one hand that DDT stopped being effective due to resistance- thus playing a significant role in derailing the post-war eradication programs, as is clearly supported on the Wiki page I link to – and at the same time, that DDT only ever played a minor role anyway, in which case development of resistance could not have been the reason for the huge increase in malaria subsequently.

      As I make clear in the post, DDT did not eradicate malaria on its own, but my reading is that it did play an important role in successful eradication programs as part of an integrated policy. There were alternatives that may have been as effective and safer, but they were more expensive; again, if DDT was not important anyway, we are still left with the question of why the dramatic spike in malaria incidence?

      I am also wondering if Norman Borlaug’s comments are also pertinent (interestingly, he was interviewed just a month before the Finkel intervew):

      But let me point out some of the things that were prohibited from being used [with] this emotional word: Malaria. The biggest killer to this day all across the tropical areas of Africa. At that time, in the Blacklands of the Torai in India, prior to the discovery of DDT, there was a huge area of swamp, of brush, of small trees, worthless for agriculture because of human disease. Malaria, primarily. When DDT came they could clear this, [and] it became some of the best lands in the world. In India, [DDT] played an important role in Indian wheat and rice production. Still continues to do that. These were lands that were worthless.

      He is implying I think that the use of DDT in agriculture also played a major role in malaria control- by clearing swamps and protecting workers.

      Is it paranoid to accuse the tobacco industry of lying to protect its interests, as it has done for decades?

      I think Monbiot is paranoid in general (my opinion) as evidenced by his OTT attack on Brand and his persistent misreading of my link on Twitter. He and many other Greens of many hues like to explain everything as a right-wing industry-funded conspiracy. Your problem is, even if you are right about Gwadz (personally I need more evidence) you still have not accounted for Roberts’ views and data, nor those of the 380 signatories to the 1999 letter concerned about the proposed UN ban- they clearly do not agree with your claim that DDT only plays a “minor role.”

      I don’t think the point about Heuper and tobacco is confusing or ambiguous in any way- it’s just that it does not fit into the perhaps convenient narrative that explains everything as a conspiracy by the tobacco industry.

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  7. John Quiggin

     /  April 30, 2014

    “Both cannot be true: we seem to be being told on the one hand that DDT stopped being effective due to resistance- thus playing a significant role in derailing the post-war eradication programs, as is clearly supported on the Wiki page I link to – and at the same time, that DDT only ever played a minor role anyway”

    You’re conflating points in time decades apart. There was a big DDT program in the 1950s and 1960s aimed at eradicating malaria by large scale spraying. WHO abandoned the global goal in 1965 due to the development of resistance, long before the US ban. Most countries with large-scale spraying programs did likewise, as noted in your sources. The resistance problem was well known by 1960 which is why Carson wrote about it, urging against widespread spraying in order to preserve effectiveness.

    What continued after the 1960s was indoor residual spraying, aimed at restricting transmission. Within that program, which was a minor part of the whole effort, DDT was one of a dozen or so insecticides used. There was certainly division on this within the group of professionals dealing with malaria. Some experts (like Roberts) were strongly in favor of DDT, and thought it had been unfairly maligned. Others either didn’t think DDT was a good choice or thought that IRS was a bad strategy for various reasons. The South African case, where they switched from DDT to another insecticide, then brought it back because of resistance to the second, was a typical example of the fight between these groups. But the fact remains that IRS with DDT was used in a handful of countries before 2006, and has been extended to a small number of others since.

    No one with any knowledge of the issue believes the standard rightwing story that DDT was abandoned when eradication was within sight. But some pro-DDT advocates allied themselves with rightwingers (Milloy, Bate, LaRouche) who pushed that line either to bash environmentalists or to take the heat off tobacco. Since you appear to be sympathetic to the first camp, I’d advise you to take a hard look at your sources rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    Finally, coming back to Gwadz, I wasn’t questioning your sourcing to Filkins NG article, but whether Filkins gave any source. From your quote, he clearly didn’t. He doesn’t give any indication even that he interviewed Gwadz.

    I suggest that the quote was taken by Filkins from the usual right wing sources. Perhaps he used it in conversation with Gwadz, got something he regarded as assent, and then attributed the quote to him. That’s one of the standard techniques journalistic con artists (and Filkins is clearly a repeat offender in this respect) commonly use, as I’ve learned.

    If you want to rely on this suspect quote, why don’t you find something written by Gwadz (not Filikins!) in which it appears. Or, write to Gwadz and ask him about it.

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    • Thanks John- and apologies for misunderstanding you re referencing Gwadz- I confess I had not really considered that Finkel’s quote may have been just made-up. A shocking case of fraud if so. Contacting Gwadz directly would be a very good idea- I may well do this, although perhaps Ill ask George if he would do it for me ;)

      Reading Finkel’s piece again now the alleged quote seems incongruous, I can’t see anything else particularly questionable or self-serving about the rest of the piece which is otherwise balanced and informative. eg later he says quite reasonably I think “Zambia is also purchasing enough insecticide to spray every house in several of the most malarious areas every year, just before the rainy season. It has already returned to DDT—though just for indoor use, in controlled quantities. In the face of the growing malaria toll, access to DDT is gradually becoming easier, and even the Sierra Club does not oppose limited spraying for malaria control”-

      how long before resistance is no longer a problem if this was the only reason it was the only reason its used was phased out earlier? It’s not clear why Finkel would throw in this one made-up comment in a piece that clearly explains much of the nuance and complexity of malaria control, including the build up of resistance- “The problem was overuse…” and how DDT was by no means sufficient alone to eradicate malaria.
      I still have other unanswered questions, Ill look into it further and no doubt this is a topic I will return to. Thanks for your input.

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  8. John Quiggin

     /  May 1, 2014

    Sorry, FInkel not Filkins.

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  9. This may or may not be of use.
    http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/summ02/Carson.html

    The Lies of Rachel Carson
    by Dr. J. Gordon Edwards
    (Full text, without tables and illustrations, from the Summer 1992 21st Century)
    A well-known entomologist documents some of the misstatements in Carson’s Silent Spring, the 1962 book that poisoned public opinion against DDT and other pesticides.

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  10. John Quiggin

     /  May 1, 2014

    Note that Norm’s link is to a LaRouche publication. Much of the anti-Carson “DDT ban” propaganda derives from this source. In addition to Carson, LaRouche believes that the British Royal Family is engaged in a genocidal plot to wipe out Africans.

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    • For argument, you just can’t beat a good ad hominem, “the mistaken assumption that the validity of an argument is to some degree dependent on the qualities of the proponent.” That it is a right-wing publication should not negate the ideas put forth. I do agree, LaRouche is scum.

      Dr. J. Gordon Edwards was an entomologist, mountain climber, author, park ranger professor, and later emeritus professor of Biology, San Jose State University (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Gordon_Edwards_%28entomologist_and_mountaineer%29). In the link, Dr. Edwards lists Carson’s errors. Those are the points to address. Not the venue.

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  11. WHO figures I’ve seen show a steady decline in both numbers of infections and deaths to malaria.

    I wonder how one can call a decline in malaria “a resurgence.”

    Most estimates note that at peak DDT use, circa 1958 to 1963, malaria infected a half-billion people each year, and killed 4 million. WHO suspended its malaria eradication campaign in 1965, officially ending it in 1969, because super mosquito-killer Fred Soper discovered mosquitoes in central Africa to be resistant and immune to DDT, making it impossible to use DDT to effectively knock down enough mosquitoes to temporarily break the transmission chain and allow treatment and cure of the disease in humans.

    It’s worth noting that WHO’s campaign involved ONLY indoor residual spraying (IRS), and not broadcast use anywhere, especially not outdoors.

    Seven years later, the U.S. banned use of DDT on agricultural crops. By 1972, DDT had effectively been reduced to use on cotton. EPA imposed the ban, with an outlet that allowed U.S. manufacturers to keep cranking the stuff out for export. Shifting ALL of U.S. production to export effectively multiplied the amount of DDT available to fight malaria (or other diseases) — still the problems in Africa and Asia were problems of resistance making it impossible to treat 80% of homes, as Fred Soper’s method required, in almost any area of the world where malaria was endemic.

    It’s important to note that stopping DDT use in the U.S. could not possibly affect mosquito populations in Africa, nor Asia. Mosquitoes don’t migrate like that.

    It’s important to note that the WHO eradication campaign ended years BEFORE the U.S. ban on DDT, meaning it’s impossible that the U.S. ban could have caused an uptick in malaria years before.

    You’re talking geographical and calendar impossibilities.

    Then we get back to the real numbers. Despite the end of the WHO eradication campaign, worldwide malaria deaths were cut to just more than 2 million a year by 1972, the year of the U.S. ban. Year by year, mostly without DDT (which WHO never banned within its efforts, and which has never been banned in Africa nor Asia), malaria infection and deaths declined. By 1999, about a million people a year died from malaria.

    Since 1999, a push to use the tools we have to wipe out malaria has reduced infections and deaths even more. Rachel Carson in 1962 urged the us of integrated pest management methods to fight vector diseases, rotating pesticides to keep insects from developing resistance, and using any other effective means to prevent bites. Those methods were officially adopted by WHO in 1999 and 2000, with a subsequent acceleration in the decline of infections and deaths to malaria.

    In 2012, malaria infections were about 225 million, a more than 50% reduction from peak DDT use. Malaria deaths fell to under 700,000, a reduction of more than 80% since peak DDT use.

    What “resurgence?”

    Reply
    • But that was the point of the whole post, the link I sent to Monbiot in my first tweet, see top of post:

      In 1947, when India became independent, 75 million malaria cases in a population of 330 million were estimated.7 During the eradication era in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a spectacular achievement was witnessed on the malaria eradication front because malaria cases significantly declined to just 100,000 in 1964. However, reversal was experienced, and malaria staged a comeback. By 1976, malaria cases had touched the 6.4 million mark. A continued rise in P. falci-parum was witnessed, and its proportion has gradually risen to nearly 50% in recent years (Figure 1).

      Malaria rates overall globally declined due to successful eradication in some countries pre-1971; the question is what happened in countries which still had malaria. <amy experienced a resurgence, see the wiki link also.
      But you have not engaged with the issue clearly outlined in the OP, viz Finkel's quote: "Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure."- you ignored this even though I had it helpfully highlighted :)

      Reply
  12. Also, India is one of three (maybe two) nations in the world today who extensively manufacture and use DDT (China and North Korea being the other two). DDT use has never waned in India. Today, India makes and uses more DDT than the rest of the world combined.

    Malaria has made a resurgence in India, one of the few places on Earth where that is so. Declines in malaria in the rest of the world make up for India’s backsliding.

    Doesn’t it give you pause that in the one nation where DDT is used with abandon, malaria thrives? Were it true that DDT is a panacea against the disease, India should have been malaria-free a decade ago.

    Stick to the evidence.

    Reply
    • Have you actually, even now, read the post? I explain quite clearly that DDT has never been a panacea, that the issue is highly complex. Yours is a complete straw-man argument.
      Malaria in India had declined from 75million to just 100,000. There were hopes that it could have been eradicated, as it had been successfully -with the help of DDT- in other countries. From the wiki article already linked to:

      In many parts of India, DDT has also largely lost its effectiveness.[104] Agricultural uses were banned in 1989 and its anti-malarial use has been declining. Urban use has halted completely.[105] Nevertheless, DDT is still manufactured and used,[106] and one study had concluded that “DDT is still a viable insecticide in indoor residual spraying owing to its effectivity in well supervised spray operation and high excito-repellency factor.”

      So it appears your claim that India is the one nation where DDT was always “used with abandon” is false. Please stick to the evidence in future, thankyou.
      In the OP I provide evidence that malaria made a resurgence in other countries also after the cessation of DDT use.
      Also, it is not clear how much a role resistance would have played, since it seems that in many cases DDT never lost effectiveness as a repellant for use in IRS.

      Reply
  13. Malaria rates overall globally declined due to successful eradication in some countries pre-1971; the question is what happened in countries which still had malaria. [Many?] experienced a resurgence, see the wiki link also.

    Malaria deaths dropped in Africa and Asia after 1965, when WHO ended the malaria eradication campaign. By that time there was essentially no malaria in Europe nor North America, so to attribute the declines to eradication in places where it was already eradicated is monkeying with the numbers. Malaria declined AFTER the 1972 U.S. ban on agricultural use, in those nations where malaria remained a problem..

    “Many experienced a resurgence?” Sri Lanka when civil war prevented the non-DDT fight against the disease. South Africa when migrations — caused partly by wars — brought malaria and mosquitoes in from other nations.

    Where else? India, where massive use of DDT didn’t work.

    Despite those local “resurgences,” malaria deaths worldwide, and malaria infections, continued to decline, mostly without DDT (John Quiggin notes above that WHO never had stopped using the stuff, but only in those decreasing number of sites where local populations were not yet wholly immune to DDT).

    But you have not engaged with the issue clearly outlined in the OP, viz Finkel’s quote: “Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure.”- you ignored this even though I had it helpfully highlighted.

    That’s an argument I find interesting, and absolutely impossible to document. Other than during the George W. Bush administration (inexplicably), U.S. policy has been to encourage all methods of fighting malaria including DDT. Until 1984 the U.S. had an economic stake in doing that — U.S. DDT manufacturers depending on income from from exports of DDT. There have been claims that DDT was difficult to obtain, but the reality is that DDT was cheap, readily available, and there has been a lot of unused DDT in Africa since the 1970s, creating another, separate environmental crisis now, in how to dispose of the stuff. I wrote about this disposal crisis in February, here, relying on extensive materials (linked) from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and their documentation of the problem of disposing of left-over DDT — not a few bottles in old garages, but tons of the stuff stacked up in warehouses, still in the packaging in which it was delivered around the 1970s, unused.

    I keep hearing DDT was difficult to find in some unnamed year, for some unknown bureaucratic reason or foreign aid reason that can never be documented. The photos show that simply was not the case.

    No one needs more DDT. It was once a wonderful tool against malaria and other infectious disease, but its use was ruined by overexcited DDT advocates who wasted it on making spotless fruits, and thereby introduced DDT resistance to every mosquito on Earth.

    Look hard at the 2013 Malaria Report from WHO. DDT gets mentioned — it is one of a dozen pesticides used in rotation in integrated vector management (Rachel Carson’s preferred method of fighting vector-borne diseases), where DDT remains effective. But resistance now is a huge problem, and DDT triggers evolution in insects that makes them resistant and immune to DDT, and also sets them up to quickly become resistant and immune to everything else we have in the insecticide arsenal.

    WHO doesn’t call for more DDT. RollBack Malaria doesn’t call for more DDT. Malaria No More doesn’t call for more DDT.

    Study after study shows bednets alone are more effective than DDT in IRS, BUT bednets with pesticides (originally including DDT, but less so recently) are dramatically more effective at preventing malaria. DDT allows a first bite, and depends on that bite NOT coming from a mosquito already infected with malaria and able to transmit the parasite; bednets prevent even the first bite.

    Bednets are cheaper than IRS spraying, and last longer.

    Even better would be the methods we used in the U.S. to get rid of malaria prior to 1939 (the year DDT was discovered to be effective against insects): Better housing that doesn’t leak mosquitoes, especially including screened windows; draining mosquito breeding pools near human habitations (about 50 yards works; we’re talking rain gutters, tires, cans and potholes); beefing up public health delivery in malaria endemic areas, to quickly and accurately diagnose malaria, and quickly and accurately and completely treat and cure the disease.

    Once humans are cured, there is no well of disease from which mosquitoes can draw the disease to transmit. DDT can play a role in that complex of malaria-fighting methods, and has done constantly since 1947. But we don’t need more DDT now, and DDT is not now a panacea against malaria, if it ever was.

    In 1970, the National Academy of Sciences published a study that, with a typo that grossly inflated the number of lives saved, called DDT certainly one of the most effective disease fighting tools humans ever invented. What most people fail to do is follow through to accurately report what NAS was studying. NAS concluded that, despite its benefits, DDT is more harmful than beneficial, and should be phased out absolutely as soon as possible.

    THAT is still true.

    Reply
  14. Also, it is not clear how much a role resistance would have played, since it seems that in many cases DDT never lost effectiveness as a repellant for use in IRS.

    A mildly-effective insect repellent that also kills food fish, beneficial insects, and causes serious decline in ecosystems? DEET is much more effective as a repellent, and much less deadly everywhere else. Why not use a proper tool?

    Resistance killed the WHO campaign, and it is worldwide today: Every mosquito on Earth now carries the genetic tools that allow them to digest DDT as if it were food, without poisoning themselves.

    Reply
    • A mildly-effective insect repellent that also kills food fish, beneficial insects, and causes serious decline in ecosystems?

      Not if only used for IRS; those problems- themselves still controversial- and also the issue of resistance- are only applicable to over-use in agriculture, which you are conflating with the far lower quantities used for vector control.

      Why not use a proper tool?

      Because it is much cheaper than most alternatives.

      WHO doesn’t call for more DDT.

      Nearly thirty years after phasing out the widespread use of indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides to control malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that this intervention will once again play a major role in its efforts to fight the disease. WHO is now recommending the use of indoor residual spraying (IRS) not only in epidemic areas but also in areas with constant and high malaria transmission, including throughout Africa.

      http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr50/en/

      Quiggan claims this is just to placate right-wingers who even in 2006 apparently had sufficient influence on this issue to force through an entirely anti-science agenda (if what you say is true), something which also seems hard to verify.

      Reply
      • You point to a 2006 press release which emphasizes that WHO still used DDT, and could do so safely.

        That does not rebut in anyway the 2013 report from WHO in which the declining effectiveness of DDT is noted, and prayers for speedy end of DDT use are made.

        Not to mention, in neither case does WHO call for an end of any ban existing on DDT, nor claim that they can’t get it into Africa. The difficulty in Africa has been opposition to DDT from local people — ironically in Uganda by businessmen who believe the misinformation that the EU has refused to buy Ugandan products because of fears of DDT contamination. No evidence of that, either.

        Reply
        • Well it is contradictory really- they say “Extensive research and testing has since demonstrated that well-managed indoor residual spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans.” and DDT and “will once again play a major role” and you are saying it poses a serious enviro hazard and they could use DEET just as well. Doesnt add up to me.
          Yes as I linked to in the post, the tobacco industry is opposed to DDT use for fear of an EU boycott- which rather undermines Quiggan’s conspiracy theory (see Bate’s defence here).

          Worth pointing out that many people are concerned about this story still because western Green NGOs continue to campaign against other technologies using exactly this tactic- trade boycott- with very serious deleterious effects, viz GMOs in Africa. This does not provide evidence in itself that something similar happened here, but it is believable and not beyond the realms of possibility.

          Reply
      • Because it is much cheaper than most alternatives.

        That may have once been true, though I have never found documentation. DDT was used because it killed a lot of stuff, not because it was cheap. The U.S. ban on use in the U.S. probably brought prices down, doubling or tripling the amount of DDT available in malaria endemic regions.

        But today, DDT is NOT cheaper. The key cost is the manpower and time to conduct the spraying. Still relying on Fred Soper’s formula, a control program doesn’t work unless workers can effectively spray 80% of all homes in an area of an outbreak — and by “effectively,” I mean actually spraying them with a working pesticide. If DDT is used in an area, and it is then discovered that the local populations of mosquito are resistant or immune to DDT, the program fails. In most countries, there is not enough money to do it over, so the campaign against malaria simply fails, taking with it all the money dedicated to fighting the disease.

        To prevent such failures, generally WHO and national health systems test the DNA of local mosquitoes to see how resistant they are to DDT, and don’t apply DDT where resistance is high. Still, the chief cost is in the manpower and time to get the spraying done, in homes where they can get access, and repeating calls until at least 80% of the homes are covered.

        In malaria fighting today, DDT is never used alone. It must be used in rotation with several other pesticides — a dozen are approved for use by WHO — in an effort to avoid driving mosquitoes to evolve resistance to any one pesticide. DDT is more dangerous here. Resistance to DDT aids the mosquitoes in developing resistance to almost all other pesticides used.

        DDT is not cheaper than any other liquid pesticide used in IRS, because of these factors.

        Bednets are much cheaper than DDT. Figures from five years ago indicated that, when local populations cooperated with spraying programs, it cost about $12 to treat one home with IRS; DDT treatments (and other pesticides) last about 12 months if the walls are not washed or painted. So it’s $24/year to treat a home.

        Bednets cost about $10 each, and have a life of five years projected — but to be conservative, let’s say they only last three years. That’s $3.34/year for a bednet, versus $24/year for DDT or other IRS.

        Bednets prevent 50% to 85% of malaria infections. DDT prevents 25% to 50% of infections (remember DDT usage in IRS depends on allowing every mosquito a free, first bite).

        IRS is absolutely ineffective if, in the short period of time mosquito populations are reduced by the spraying, human cases of malaria are not accurately diagnosed and completely treated to cure the infected people. The idea is to break the chain of transmission in the lifecycle of the of malaria parasite. The goal is to get ride of the disease in humans, so that when the mosquitoes come roaring back — and they always do in malaria fights — there will be no pool of infection in the humans from which the mosquitoes can draw the disease. (Mosquitoes get infected with malaria parasites, which then go through another phase of their lifecycle in the mosquito; that phase takes about two weeks, before the mosquito becomes a transmitter of the disease.)

        Were DDT free to health workers, that would not make it any more attractive, no would it significantly decrease the cost of an eradication program. The major expenses of mosquito eradication spraying come in the recruiting, training and managing of the insecticide sprayers.

        But that’s not even the major cost of malaria eradication. The greater costs come from beefing up medical care, having adequate kits available to accurately diagnose the malaria, and which kind of malaria, and making inexpensively available an effective pharmaceutical regimen (meaning tailored to the infecting parasite), and then making sure the victim takes the full course of the drugs and is cured of malaria.

        DDT’s being inexpensive or expensive is not a factor.

        Reply
  15. Through all of this, one fact remains that absolutely refutes the claim of resurgence: Year over year, from 1963 to 2014, malaria infections and deaths continue to decline. We cannot claim there was a “resurgence” of malaria, when there was a decline, instead.

    Reply
  16. John Quiggin

     /  May 3, 2014

    Here;s the Wikipedia article on Bate, which summarises his links to the tobacco industry.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Bate

    Worth following the link to Milloy, who played a leading role in creating the DDT ban myth while at Cato, and was forced to resign after his undisclosed role as a tobacco lobbyist became public. Milloy helped to transform the LaRouchite conspiracy theory cited by Norm above into a belief so widespread that people like Brand and Lovelock are still spouting it, long after it has been discredited.

    If you want to use a term like “Skeptic” lesson one is to be sceptical about people who are saying what you want to hear. You seem to bending over to give these guys the benefit of the doubt, while applying much harsher criteria to Monbiot even though you admit he is right on the basic points – no DDT ban, no millions of deaths, resistance etc.

    Reply
    • You are absolutely correct to point to the dangers of confirmation bias. A good example is Heuper’s fear that campaigns against tobacco would detract from his own campaign against agricultural chemicals. Another can be seen in Ed Darrell’s comment above in which he conflates the harm done by excessive use of DDT in agriculture with its benign use for IRS. As already referenced, Bate is not shy about his tobacco connections:

      I am probably the only person who ever actually tried (in 1998) to raise funds from the tobacco industry to renew the use of DDT. I failed.

      As we have already seen, the tobacco industry was at times opposed to DDT. This is one part of your story that does not add up. I think I have clearly outlined some of the other issues that leave questions hanging. You would have us believe that the WHO’s recent rehabilitation of DDT, 40 years after Silent Spring, is because they also have been duped by tobacco industry shills.
      The excesses of the environmental movement are well documented and inescapable. As already explained, Greenpeace and other Green NGOs have indeed used the very real threat of consumer trade boycotts to deter African governments from accepting GMOs, which has almost certainly lead to unnecessary deaths.
      Bate it seems has also written about GMOs and environmentalists, and on this he would be correct; yet the anti-GMO movement will be heartened by your discrediting of anything Bate says due to links with Big Tobacco.
      The narrative of heartless western elite NGOs acting against the interests of the poor in developing nations is not fanciful.
      One such NGO is the UCS, cited in the wiki article you link to as evidence against Bate- but they are hardly a bastion of scientific impartiality themselves. They are, if you like, a “left-wing” lobby group like Greenpeace.
      So it seems to me there is confirmation bias on both sides. I don’t accept Monbiot’s position because he is so obviously biased himself. He has kept the pedantic argument about “when is a ban not a ban” going unchanged for 4 years. It is a smoke-screen used to deflect attention away from any potential criticism of the Greens.
      John Maddox, one of Britains’ most celebrated scientists of the 20th Century, took issue with the junk science of Silent Spring in his 1972 book The Doomsday Syndrome, long before Bate and the AFM. He again quotes Borlaug:

      The indiscriminate cancellation, suspension or outright banning of such chemicals as DDT is a game of dominoes we will live to regret…Perhaps more than any other single factor in the world today, DDT has a unique contribution to make to the relief of human suffering.

      (Evidence to Congress 1971)

      Reply
  17. John Maddox, one of Britains’ most celebrated scientists of the 20th Century, took issue with the junk science of Silent Spring in his 1972 book The Doomsday Syndrome, long before Bate and the AFM. He again quotes Borlaug:

    The indiscriminate cancellation, suspension or outright banning of such chemicals as DDT is a game of dominoes we will live to regret…Perhaps more than any other single factor in the world today, DDT has a unique contribution to make to the relief of human suffering.

    (Evidence to Congress 1971)

    Maddox in an interesting case. But it appears to me that he makes a major, fatal blunder in making a case for DDT.

    Maddox assumes that a low concentration of DDT in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean mean there is no threat to wildlife, nor to humans. That’s a dangerous error.

    DDT is sucked up quickly by living tissue, by phytoplanktons and zooplanktons, by smaller creatures — and from there it bioaccumulates and biomagnifies as it rises through the trophic levels. A “low level” of DDT in waters of the Atlantic indicate there is so much DDT available that every living thing can’t absorb all of it, and the biomagnification effects can be astonishingly deadly.

    But Maddox was a writer, not a malaria fighter, not a wildlife biologist, not a scientist working in the field. We should be reminded by his work in favor of DNA that he could be a fierce partisan, and by his anti-Big Bang editorials that he could be dead wrong.

    In the case of DDT, he was both fiercely partisan, and dead wrong.

    Maddox was wrong to call the 20-year, carefully scientific and carefully fair process the U.S. government used to halt sale of DDT in the U.S. “indiscriminate” — scandalously and scurriously wrong — and it seems to me he failed to understand the science, the law, or the history of the event. Here’s a summary, which should have given him cause to retract his remarks: http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/ddt-regulatory-history-brief-survey-1975

    Reply
  18. P.S. It is junk science to claim DDT is harmless. It’s dishonest to claim DDT was banned due to fear of harms to humans. Be careful when getting your information from Steve Milloy’s “Junk Science” site or book — he’s got an odd sense of humor, and in that case it appears he gets great delight and more than a little paycheck from truth in advertising. He’s peddling junk science.

    Reply
    • P.S. It is junk science to claim DDT is harmless.

      It is a straw-man to falsely claim I am making this claim when I am not.

      Be careful when getting your information from Steve Milloy’s “Junk Science” site or book

      Be careful claiming I am getting information from sources which I have not referenced at all.

      It’s dishonest to claim DDT was banned due to fear of harms to humans.

      She went on to argue that the average person stores potentially harmful amounts of DDT, and ‘almost certainly’ starts life in the womb by absorbing it through the placenta (‘children are more susceptible to poisoning than adults’, she wrote). ‘There has been no such parallel situation in medical history. No one yet knows what the ultimate consequences may be.’ (pp22, 23) Not only did these claims about masses of people poisoned by pesticides and chemicals prove to be wrong; they also contain within them early expressions of both environmentalism and fear of an unknown future.

      source.

      Reply
  19. Finally, we’re left with this:

    . . .we are still left with the question of why the dramatic spike in malaria incidence?

    That’s a false claim. It’s the most basic of the false claims against Rachel Carson and environmentalists.

    When DDT was banned, malaria incidence and deaths dropped. As DDT has been used less and less around the Earth, malaria and deaths from malaria have continued to drop.

    Why would anyone tell you there was a spike in malaria, when there was none? What sort of political agenda drives such stuff?

    Reply
    • James

       /  May 28, 2014

      It is entirely possible to have a world wide drop in incidence of malaria and malaria deaths while at the same time have significant regional increases in the incidence of malaria and malaria deaths due to DDT bans.

      The argument against Carson is that her science was flawed in areas and these flaws contributed to a historical response against the use of DDT anywhere. The argument carries forward that rich nations which had eradicated malaria refused to fund the use of DDT in poorer nations and this action, coupled with the increased cost of DDT, led to an upsurge of malaria in those poorer nations.

      Reply
      • It’s possible that malaria dropped worldwide while regionally, DDT shortages created trouble.

        But we have history, and we know that’s not the case. DDT has never been in short supply anywhere in the world. The DDT “ban” in the U.S. included orders from EPA that U.S. manufacturers keep cranking the stuff out, for export, for use against disease.

        With 52 years of experience since the U.S. quit spraying DDT outdoors on cotton, we can say with assurance that action played absolutely NO ROLE in the World Health Organization’s decision to stop their malaria eradication campaign using DDT sprayed INDOORs, mostly because WHO stopped their campaign seven years BEFORE the U.S. ban, but also because WHO never stopped using DDT — they just couldn’t run the eradication campaign.

        Carson’s science was not flawed. In 1963 President Kennedy asked the his top group of science advisors to check Carson’s book for accuracy. The panel of biologists, entomologists and pesticide experts that did the heavy lifting included the best and brightest in the U.S., Noble winners among them. Their report, “Use of Pesticides,” gravely noted that Carson’s science was deadly accurate. And while there is one sentence chiding her for generating intense interest in the issue, they recommended immediate action against DDT.

        Not a single study cited by Carson has ever been found lacking, or in error, and none have been contraindicated. In 52 years, that’s a record not even Einstein achieved.

        DDT costs did not increase — U.S. exports were multiplied, which decreased the costs of the stuff. If any developed nation refused to fund DDT, they left no record of it. The U.S. position was to help U.S. chemical companies, and sell as much of the stuff as possible. Exports to Africa were so great that there was much more DDT there than could be used — and today, the FAO has a problem with what to do with tons of unopened DDT containers, how to safely dispose of the stuff.

        Malaria did not surge in any area. Pragmatically, our stopping the use of DDT in Arkansas did not affect any mosquito in Africa or Asia. They don’t migrate that far.

        The claims against Rachel Carson are scurrilous and false. They are historically, legally and scientifically in error. They are impossible in time and geography.

        It was possible for statistical anomalies to have kept those claims technically “not false.” But we know from history, those statistical probabilities did not play out.

        Rachel Carson was right in 1962. Unfettered use and abuse of DDT would render it useless against disease, as the UN discovered by 1965. EPA’s ban on DDT use in the US only, in 1972, couldn’t have caused an increase in malaria from lack of DDT, because it didn’t reduce DDT in any way in use outside of the U.S. to fight malaria. While it is true the UN malaria eradication campaign ended, it is also true it ended because abuse of DDT by Rachel Carson’s critics killed the effectiveness of the stuff a decade earlier, a tragedy they now seek to lay on Carson instead.

        Rachel was right. Shame on those who make up incredible falsehoods to claim otherwise.

        Reply

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