I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn’t carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn’t give a damn.
-Michael Crichton: Environmentalism as Religion
This last weekend I was visiting my family and I noticed a National Geographic magazine lying on the coffee table. The cover story was, Malaria: Stopping a Global Killer. The image on the cover was a microscopic view of a mosquito. I grabbed this screen shot from the National Geographic website:
Here, also, is a link to their story about Malaria.
I picked up the magazine and made a remark about how I had read that the ban of DDT was based on faulty science and that coincidentally most of the problem wouldn’t exist if the chemical hadn’t been banned. I was greeted with fairly standard comments that were something like, “I don’t think that’s true,” or “No, DDT actually did thin the egg shells of a bunch of birds according to that one study.”
Suddenly I was caught in one of those moments where you feel really stupid, like you just blabbed something that you might be totally wrong about. And in reality, the thing I had thought I read had been quite a long time ago, so maybe I was way off… I certainly couldn’t remember any solid facts on which to ground my crazy claim.
The conversation had ended but I couldn’t shake the idea that I had indeed read a couple times about the DDT ban being based on junk science. Naturally – the only cure for my curiosity was to hop on the internet and see what I could find.
First, National Geographic’s article mentions the ban on DDT.
“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.”
[National Geographic, July 2007]
I should note here that Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, is seen, by most sources, to have heralded the birth of the environmental movement in the US as well as the ban of DDT. Unfortunately, from what I can find, it appears that Carson’s conclusions are not be based on sound science.
Apparently, even the opening page of her book appears to be somewhat misleading. This is what the late J. Gordon Edwards, Ph.D. had to say about it in his paper titled, DDT: A Case Study in Scientific Fraud:
On the first page of the book widely credited with launching the
environmental movement as well as bringing about the ban on
DDT, Rachel Carson wrote: “Dedicated to Dr. Albert Schweitzer,
who said, “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will
end by destroying the earth.” She surely knew that he was
referring to atomic warfare, but she implied that he meant there
were deadly hazards from chemicals such as DDT. Because I had
already found a great many untruths in her book, I obtained a copy
of Dr. Schweitzer’s autobiography, to see whether he even
mentioned DDT. He wrote: “How much labor and waste of time
these wicked insects do cause, but a ray of hope, in the use of DDT,
is now held out to us.”
[DDT: A Case Study in Scientific Fraud, J. Gordon Edwards, Ph.D.]
The real scary bit appears when you dig deeper into the science and reasoning behind the US’s ban of the chemical. The following are some excerpts from a breakdown of 109 studies gathered by Dr. Edwards who testified at the 1971-1972 EPA hearings on DDT with research and some editing/formatting done by Steven J. Milloy, publisher of junkscience.com. I have even trimmed some of the items down further for brevity. I also chopped out the references which are extensive and you can find them on this JunkScience.com page. I strongly encourage you to click this link and read the whole list with references so that you don’t just think I nabbed this off of some crazy unreliable source. I am not presenting items here in the same numerical order as you will find them on the complete listing. I have also emboldened some key phrases you should consider. Once again, each of these items is the conclusion of a study:
I. Historical Background
Discovered by accident, DDT became one of the greatest public health tools of the 20th century.
Overuse harmed its efficacy — and made it politically unpopular.
- It is believed that [malaria] afflicts between 300 and 500 million every year, causing up to 2.7 million deaths, mainly among children under five years.
- “To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT… In little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that otherwise would have been inevitable.”
- Some mosquitoes became “resistant” to DDT. “There is persuasive evidence that antimalarial operations did not produce mosquito resistance to DDT. That crime, and in a very real sense it was a crime, can be laid to the intemperate and inappropriate use of DDT by farmers, especially cotton growers. They used the insecticide at levels that would accelerate, if not actually induce, the selection of a resistant population of mosquitoes.”
II. Advocacy against DDT
DDT was demagogued out of use.
- Rachel Carson sounded the initial alarm against DDT, but represented the science of DDT erroneously in her 1962 book Silent Spring. Carson wrote “Dr. DeWitt’s now classic experiments [on quail and pheasants] have now established the fact that exposure to DDT, even when doing no observable harm to the birds, may seriously affect reproduction. Quail into whose diet DDT was introduced throughout the breeding season survived and even produced normal numbers of fertile eggs. But few of the eggs hatched.” DeWitt’s 1956 article (in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry) actually yielded a very different conclusion. Quail were fed 200 parts per million of DDT in all of their food throughout the breeding season. DeWitt reports that 80% of their eggs hatched, compared with the “control”” birds which hatched 83.9% of their eggs. Carson also omitted mention of DeWitt’s report that “control” pheasants hatched only 57 percent of their eggs, while those that were fed high levels of DDT in all of their food for an entire year hatched more than 80% of their eggs.
- The environmental movement used DDT as a means to increase their power. Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, commented, “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.”
- William Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972, was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”
- But as an assistant attorney general, William Ruckelshaus stated on August 31, 1970 in a U.S. Court of Appeals that “DDT has an amazing an exemplary record of safe use, does not cause a toxic response in man or other animals, and is not harmful. Carcinogenic claims regarding DDT are unproven speculation.” But in a May 2, 1971 address to the Audubon Society, Ruckelshaus stated, “As a member of the Society, myself, I was highly suspicious of this compound, to put it mildly. But I was compelled by the facts to temper my emotions … because the best scientific evidence available did not warrant such a precipitate action. However, we in the EPA have streamlined our administrative procedures so we can now suspend registration of DDT and the other persistent pesticides at any time during the period of review.” Ruckelshaus later explained his ambivalence by stating that as assistant attorney general he was an advocate for the government, but as head of the EPA he was “a maker of policy.
- Environmental activists planned to defame scientists who defended DDT. In an uncontradicted deposition in a federal lawsuit, Victor Yannacone, a founder of the Environmental Defense Fund, testified that he attended a meeting in which Roland Clement of the Audubon Society and officials of the Environmental Defense Fund decided that University of California-Berkeley professor and DDT-supporter Thomas H. Jukes was to be muzzled by attacking his credibility.
III. EPA hearings
DDT was banned by an EPA administrator who ignored the decision of his own administrative law judge.
- Extensive hearings on DDT before an EPA administrative law judge occurred during 1971-1972. The EPA hearing examiner, Judge Edmund Sweeney, concluded that “DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man… DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man… The use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife.”
- Overruling the EPA hearing examiner, EPA administrator Ruckelshaus banned DDT in 1972. Ruckelshaus never attended a single hour of the seven months of EPA hearings on DDT. Ruckelshaus’ aides reported he did not even read the transcript of the EPA hearings on DDT.
DDT was alleged to be a liver carcinogen in the book Silent Spring and a breast carcinogen in the book Our Stolen Future.
- Feeding primates more than 33,000 times the average daily human exposure to DDT (as estimated in 1969 and 1972) was “inconclusive with respect to a carcinogenic effect of DDT in nonhuman primates.”
- “Even after 20 years of follow-up, exposure to relatively high concentrations of DDE or PCBs showed no evidence of contributing to an increased risk of breast cancer.“
- To prospectively evaluate relationships of organochlorine pesticides and PCBs with breast cancer, a case-control study nested in a cohort using the Columbia, Missouri Breast Cancer Serum Bank. Results of this study do not support a role for organochlorine pesticides and PCBs in breast cancer etiology.
- A pooled analysis examined whether exposure to DDT was associated with the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among male farmers. No strong consistent evidence was found for an association between exposure to DDT and risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- “… weakly estrogenic organochlorine compounds such as PCBs, DDT, and DDE are not a cause of breast cancer.”
- None of 35 workers heavily exposed to DDT (600 times the average U.S. exposure for 9 to 19 years) developed cancer.
- Men who voluntarily ingested 35 mgs of DDT daily for nearly two years were carefully examined for years and “developed no adverse effects.”
- DDT was found to reduce tumors in animals.
VI. Egg-shell thinning
DDT was alleged to have thinned bird egg shells
- Many experiments on caged-birds demonstrate that DDT and its metabolites (DDD and DDE) do not cause serious egg shell thinning, even at levels many hundreds of times greater than wild birds would ever accumulate.
- Laboratory egg shell thinning required massive doses of DDE far in excess of anything expected in nature, and massive laboratory doses produce much less thinning than is seen in many of the thin-shelled eggs collected in the wild.
- Years of carefully controlled feeding experiments involving levels of DDT as high as present in most wild birds resulted in no tremors, mortality, thinning of egg shells nor reproductive interference.
- Egg shells of red-tailed hawks were reported to be six percent thicker during years of heavy DDT usage than just before DDT use began. Golden eagle egg shells were 5 percent thicker than those produced before DDT use.
To the extent egg shell thinning occurred, many other substances and conditions could have been responsible.
- Oil has been associated with egg shell thinning.
- Lead has been associated with egg shell thinning.
- Mercury has been associated with egg shell thinning.
- Stress from noise, fear or excitement and disease are associated with egg shell thinning.
- Older birds produce thinner shells.
- Normal egg shells become 5 percent thinner as developing embryos withdraw calcium for bone development.
- Larger birds tend to produce thicker-shelled eggs.
- Dehydration is associated with thinner egg shells
- Temperature extremes are associated with thinner egg shells.
- Decreased illumination is associated with thinner egg shells.
- Human and predator intrusion is associated with thinner egg shells.
- Simple restraint interferes with the transport of calcium throughout the body of birds, preventing adequate calcium from reaching the shell gland and forming good shells.
- Uncovering eggs after parent birds are removed or frightened off exposes eggs to potentially fatal chilling, especially in northern or high altitude locations.
- Phosphorus deficiency is associated with thinner shells.
- Calcium deficiency is associated with thinner shells.
- Egg shell deficiencies were attributed to DDT and DDE by U.S. Fish and Wildlife researchers even though the birds had been placed on low-calcium diets.
- Cutting illumination from 16 hours daily to 8 hours daily at the same time as DDT feeding began had no significant adverse effect on shell quality. Shell quality was only adversely impacted after large amounts of DDE were injected into birds.
- DDT was blamed for egg shell thinning even though a known egg shell thinner (dieldrin) was also added to the diet.
- No significant correlation between DDE and egg shell thinning in Canadian terns even though the eggs contained as much as 100 parts per million of DDE.
You Wont Hear This On PBS
So, you can probably see where this is going. And I’m hardly even half way through the list either! It goes on to talk about how DDT was also blamed for the decline in Bald Eagles – which also has a huge list of negating factors against it – “Bald eagles were reportedly threatened with extinction in 1921 — 25 years before widespread use of DDT,” or “After 15 years of heavy and widespread usage of DDT, Audubon Society ornithologists counted 25 percent more eagles per observer in 1960 than during the pre-DDT 1941 bird census.” The list of discrepancies goes on and on.But here is what really gets me. Remember what the recent article in National Geographic said?”Though nontoxic to humans, DDT harmed peregrine falcons, sea lions, and salmon.”If you continue to reading the article on junk science you will see that and entire section is dedicated to peregrine falcons. Once again – I just list a few (be sure to read the whole thing on junk science):
- The decline in the U.S. peregrine falcon population occurred long before the DDT years.
- During the 1960’s, peregrines in northern Canada were “reproducing normally,” even though they contained 30 times more DDT, DDD, and DDE than the midwestern peregrines that were allegedly extirpated by those chemicals.
- The decline in British peregrine falcons ended by 1966, though DDT was as abundant as ever. The Federal Advisory Committee on Pesticides concluded “There is no close correlation between the declines in populations of predatory birds, particularly the peregrine falcon and the sparrow hawk, and the use of DDT.”
- Peregrine falcon and sparrow hawk egg shells thinned in Britain prior to the use of DDT.
“…Men, who above all things – desire power.”
As you can see – there seems to be a number of studies refuting the claims that the use of DDT led to the decline of bird populations. A closer look at the claim about DDT’s effect on marine life also shows discrepancies. This is another excerpt from A Case Study in Scientific Fraud, by J. Gordon Edwards ( I have included the full article as a PDF so that you can download it and read it on the right in the box.net file area):
DDT was claimed to have dire effects on marine life. Charles
Wurster claimed that marine algae died in his tank of seawater
because it contained 500 ppb DDT. Paul Ehrlich seemed to
approve of Wurster’s hoax, for he wrote an article based on it, which
many schoolchildren were required to read. The following year
Ehrlich published that same article in England, in a Sphere Book
titled ,The Year’s Best Science Fiction, a more appropriate outlet.
Because DDT is only soluble in water at 1.2 ppb, Ehrlich was
asked how he could have such high concentrations of DDT in his
seawater. He explained that he had added enough alcohol to the
tanks to obtain the desired concentrations of DDT in the water. Of
course, the seas do not contain much alcohol, so what happened in
his tanks bore no resemblance to what would happen in unaltered
seawater. Not surprisingly, two other scientists had earlier reported
that DDT in their tanks of seawater caused no harm to the same
species of algae that Wurster used.
It has often been said that DDT persists for decades in the ocean.
Researchers at EPA�s Gulf Breeze Laboratory in Louisiana added
DDT to seawater in huge submerged containers. They reported that
92 percent of the DDT its metabolites, DDD and DDE,
disappeared from the seawater in just 38 days.
So it seems that I wasn’t just crazy. There has been some serious criticism of the ban and the science surrounding it. I wish that this was all there was to it – but unfortunately, the important part is yet to come. Edwards concludes his article with this statement:
The ban on DDT, founded on erroneous or fraudulent reports
and imposed by one powerful bureaucrat, has caused millions of
deaths, while sapping the strength and productivity of countless
human beings in underdeveloped countries. It is time for an honest
appraisal and for immediate deployment of the best currently
available means to control insect-borne diseases. This means DDT.
“The DDT-malaria issue is a stark illustration of the conflict between the developed and developing world,” wrote Lorraine Mooney in the September 9 Wall Street Journal. “For the sake of a possible environmental threat to birds of prey in the ‘civilized’ world, millions of people in developing countries are dying. This must stop.”
May 6th, 2006 Steven Millroy, editor of Junkscience.com wrote this (an excerpt):
The U.S. Government has finally begun to reverse policy on the insecticide DDT. Let’s hope that this policy shift represents the beginning of the end of what can only be called a crime against humanity: the decades-old withholding of the world’s most effective anti-malarial weapon from billions of adults and children at risk of dying from the disease.
There never was any scientific evidence that DDT posed a risk to humans or wildlife. An EPA administrative law judge said as much after seven months and 9,000 pages of testimony about DDT in 1972. DDT wasn’t responsible for the decline in bald eagle populations, didn’t cause bird egg shell-thinning and didn’t cause cancer in humans, the judge determined.
DDT was nonethless banned in the U.S. when then-EPA administrator William Ruckleshaus reversed without explanation the decision of the judge who actually heard all the DDT testimony – Ruckleshaus heard none of it and never read any of the transcript. As it was later revealed, Ruckleshaus was a member of the Audubon Society and raised money for the Environmental Defense Fund – the two activist groups that led the charge for the DDT ban.
Even John Tierney of the New York Times recently chimed in:
“Ms. Carson used dubious statistics and anecdotes (like the improbable story of a woman who instantly developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT) to warn of a cancer epidemic that never came to pass. She rightly noted threats to some birds, like eagles and other raptors, but she wildly imagined a mass ‘biocide.’ She warned that one of the most common American birds, the robin, was ‘on the verge of extinction’ — an especially odd claim given the large numbers of robins recorded in Audubon bird counts before her book….The human costs have been horrific in the poor countries where malaria returned after DDT spraying was abandoned. Malariologists have made a little headway recently in restoring this weapon against the disease, but they’ve had to fight against Ms. Carson’s disciples who still divide the world into good and bad chemicals, with DDT in their fearsome ‘dirty dozen.'”
Read [More of the Article]
Now, I don’t blame anyone for doubting. This appears to be a classic case of what Michael Yon calls: The Green Gator Phenomena:
“So what color are they (alligators)?
Through the years I have actually asked hundreds of people about this. Some of those who’ve actually seen gators up close have asserted that gators are brown.
I have posed the loaded question several times while standing close to alligators and people. I will ask, “What color is it?” They will look, and generally say something like, “Green.” And then pause, “Oh, dark, dark green. Very dark green.” This is psychologically profound, because it shows that people are using an implanted false memory instead of their own eyes. No wonder the gators cannot escape their press.
And for those who sensed the loaded question, gators are not brown any more than they are green.
Gators are black.”
The environmental movement is very good at this. Often – a theory is talked about as if it were fact and agendas end up pushing aside reality. Michael Crichton has written a great article expanding on this idea. While I disagree with some of his ideas about religion, I think his main thesis is right on the money:
“Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.”
Anyway – I hope that this collection of articles and studies helps you to think critically about this issue. The point of this post is not to bash people who care about the environment. I happen to care very much about it and think that we should do our best to protect it in any way that we can. All I am pointing out here is that the Environmental Movement itself, seems to have suspect motives. In this case, I think they were more concerned with prove that they had power to effectively pressure America, the global hyperpower, into making a decision – thus legitimizing their movement.
It appears to me that inexcusably, many many people–monstly children, have died from malaria because of the decision by the “civilized countries,” under pressure from environmentalists, to ban DDT. It also seems clear that this decision was not made in the light of good scientific study.
The only good news is that it appears the US is starting to reconsider this decision. Tragically, in the mean time – according to an estimate by the late the late Dr. J. Gordon Edwards, 190 people per minute are either dying or suffering directly or indirectly from the USA ban of DDT and other pesticides. Since the ban in 1972, an estimated: 95,580,897 people have died from malaria. This is an atrocity an should not be tolerated!
So I didn’t just make this up – though I wish that I had. Please read and double check my references. As I have said many times: Don’t just take my word for it!
I will leave you with this quote:
“The environmental movement I helped found has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity. The pain and suffering it is inflicting on families in developing countries must no longer be tolerated. Eco-Imperialism is the first book I’ve seen that tells the truth and lays it on the line. It’s a must-read for anyone who cares about people, progress and our planet.”
– Patrick Moore, Greenpeace co-founder
Further Reading and Resources:
- JunkScience.com, 100 things you should know about DDT
- J. Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., DDT: A Case Study in Scientific Fraud
- Michael Crichton, Environmentalism as Religion
- Steven Milloy, DDT: A Weapon of Mass Survival
- Michael Yon, The Green Gator Phenomenon