It was a mistake to ban DDT in 1972

“The overuse should have been limited, but the ban that led to millions of human deaths should not be a source of pride.”

Below is a letter in the Des Moines Register.

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It was a mistake to ban DDT in 1972

It always amazes me that environmentalists are still proud of the 1972 ban on DDT as a result of the 1962 book “Silent Spring.” This was repeated by the two authors of the Iowa View, “More to Do 50 Years After ‘Silent Spring’,” in the March 3 Register.

Yes, DDT was overused, and there were concerns about the effect on bird eggs. There were also concerns that insects might become resistant. Unfortunately, the outright ban had the consequence of making DDT unavailable, greatly increasing the incidence of Malaria in Africa and other tropical areas.

As a result, it is estimated that between 30 million and 60 million died, most of them children. In Sri Lanka, malaria deaths went from 2.8 million in 1948 down to 17 in 1964 due to the use of DDT. They then banned DDT and by 1969, death rates were back up to 2.5 million.

In addition, DDT was replaced by pesticides that are often much more toxic to humans. Many environmentalists dismiss or minimize these concerns. For example, Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was asked if the DDT ban led to loss of human life. His reply was “Probably … so what? People are the causes of all the problems; we have too many of them.” He has since retracted his statement.

DDT should never have been banned. The overuse should have been limited, but the ban that led to millions of human deaths should not be a source of pride.

— David C. Hammel, Urbandale

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7 responses to “It was a mistake to ban DDT in 1972

  1. From 1975 – 1978 I worked as a healthcare professional in a group of hospitals on the Zambian copperbelt. We said bollocks to the ban and continued to use DDT. The incidence of Malaria among those that stayed within the bounds of the townships and the mine was ZERO. If we travelled out of town then we took daraprim.

    There was still plenty of malaria, but these were all cases that were among people living/working in the outlying villages and regions, and were 99% P.falciparum.

  2. Coach Springer

    ” … the ban that led to millions of human deaths should not be a source of pride.” Finalist for Understatement of the 20th Century. Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot combined weren’t so effective.

  3. “For example, Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was asked if the DDT ban led to loss of human life. His reply was “Probably … so what? People are the causes of all the problems; we have too many of them.”
    I guess he didn’t realize that if these alternative are often toxic to humans, then they are probably also toxic to animals (which the environmentalists claim to care so much about) as well. Someone may have informed him about this factoid and how much of a complete idiot he was, and then he decided to retract his statement. What a moron and soulless, pathetic excuse for a human being!

  4. tru dat tru dat

  5. “As a result, it is estimated that between 30 million and 60 million died, most of them children. In Sri Lanka, malaria deaths went from 2.8 million in 1948 down to 17 in 1964 due to the use of DDT. They then banned DDT and by 1969, death rates were back up to 2.5 million.”

    That’s odd, since DDT wasn’t banned in the US until 1973. This is the official EPA press release: http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/ddt/01.html. The ban wasn’t even a “ban”, it was just severely restricted, and not banned or restricted for public health uses. The rest of the world continued to use DDT for malaria control, that is, until mosquitos started developing resistance, at which time malaria began to rebound.

    But hey, millions of deaths caused by evil environmentalists makes a better anti-green scare story doesn’t it ?

    You people are pathetic.

  6. Thank you for the junk link Brad.

    The use of DDT was banned with the exception of its use as mosquito control inside & on homes as disease vector control. They are allowed 4ktons or less per year for worldwide use.

    DDT when used every other year with a carbon-based pesticide shows no persistent resistance among insects. This is the method one was to use with DDT per the manufacturer. Further, it’s non-toxicity to nearly all vertebrates & very low cost compared to ‘organic’ (carbon-based) chemicals enticed folks in the third world to overuse it.

    No study suggesting DDT was dangerous to humans has been confirmed as true. Further, the eggshell studies are also inconclusive. Lastly, the main actors in the DDT ban admitted its banning was political in nature, not scientific.

    • “The use of DDT was banned with the exception of its use as mosquito control inside & on homes as disease vector control. They are allowed 4ktons or less per year for worldwide use.”

      In other words, not a ban.

      “DDT when used every other year with a carbon-based pesticide shows no persistent resistance among insects. ”

      Completely false. Source?

      “Further, it’s non-toxicity to nearly all vertebrates…”

      I wonder if humans are included in “vertebrates”?, since DDT seems to be the method of choice in rural India for committing suicide. The NTP (National Toxicology Program) in the US considers DDT to be “moderately toxic” and The World Health Organization classifies DDT as “moderately hazardous”. DDT has also been linked to diabetes and a host of developmental disorders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT

      “Further, the eggshell studies are also inconclusive.”

      False again. While some species of birds have not exhibited eggshell thinning, other species, particularly raptors (e.g. Brown Pelicans) are very susceptible to specific metabolites found in DDT. A meta-study done by LJ Blus, SN Wiemeyer, and CM Bunck in Environmental Pollution (1997, 95 [1] 67-74) concluded, “nearly all samples of eggs of experimental kestrels given DDT-contaminated diets and those of wild brown pelicans from the post-1945 era exhibited significant eggshell thinning.”

      An earlier study by Jeffrey Lincer in 1975 concluded more or less the same thing in his groundbreaking, “”DDE-induced Eggshell Thinning in the American kestrel: A Comparison of the Field Situation and Laboratory Results.” in Journal of Applied Ecology.

      These are of course in addition to the first studies that came out in Nature by D.A. Ratcliff (July 8, 1967) “”Decrease in Eggshell Weight in Certain Birds of Prey,” and in Science (October, 1968) “”Chlorinated Hydrocarbons and Eggshell Changes in Raptorial and Fish-Eating Birds”, by Daniel Anderson and Joseph Hickey.

      Here’s a link to a summary of studies showing toxicity to birds and other animals: http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc83.htm#SectionNumber:6.2

      “Lastly, the main actors in the DDT ban admitted its banning was political in nature, not scientific.”

      Again, completely untrue.

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