DDT causes diabetes, breast cancer and infant deaths?

Is it time to bring back JunkScience.com’s DDTees?

Today’s New York Times article “As an Insecticide Makes a Comeback, Uganda Must Weigh Its Costs” states:

But the United States banned the use of DDT in 1972 over the chemical’s hazardous environmental impact. Studies have also linked DDT to diabetes and breast cancer. One examination of the consequences of using DDT to fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the chemical might have increased infant deaths. [Emphasis added]

I traced the diabetes claim to a study published in the July 2009 Environmental Health Perspectives. Aside from the usual fatal flaws of weak association epidemiology, this study’s assertion that DDT metabolite DDE was associated with incident diabetes is laughable since the average body mass index (BMI) of the study subjects was 33.2 — e.g., meaning that the average study subject was likely to be obese (check out this chart to see what height/weight combos make for a BMI of 33+).

Moreover, no significant associations were reported for study subjects with a BMI less than 29.

I don’t know whether obesity leads to diabetes or diabetes leads to obesity, but there’s no evidence that DDT is involved.

As to the breast cancer risk claim, I last addressed this issue in an October 11, 2007 FOXNews.com column, responding to an October 2007 Environmental Health Perspectives study.

What about infant deaths?

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences study referred to by the New York Times doesn’t even try to associate DDT with nonmalarial infant death. It instead only estimates nonmalarial deaths that may be associated with DDT spraying, the alleged “association” being based on three studies “suggesting” that DDT exposure may increase pre-term delivery and small-for-gestational-age births, and shorten the duration of lactation.

Here’s my quick take on those three studies:

So contrary to the New York Times‘ assertion, there is no credible evidence that DDT has anything to do with diabetes, heart disease or infant deaths. Moreover, given that one million children under the age of five die every year from malaria, even if DDT did increase the risk of diabetes, breast cancer and infant death, those risks would be better than the alternative. While the Times misinforms millions are dying needlessly.

Ugandan anti-malaria workers sporting JunkScience.com DDTees.

19 thoughts on “DDT causes diabetes, breast cancer and infant deaths?”

  1. Mr. Milloy – my memory ain’t half bad. And I reserched some into Dr. J. Gordon Edwards. He’d have been someone I’d liked to have known. As a side note: Nam vet’s used to tell me that when they ran out of ammo, they would use their goverment issued DDT spray to kill VC. I once, in the dark, sprayed a can of Black Flag into my face (contained something like 18% DDT). It tasted rather pleasant – I was in my teens – I’m going to be 59 in August. I have no significant health problems – require no medication of any sort! Where can I get some more?

  2. I know how the anti-rational brigade would view the longevity of Dr. J. Gordon Edwards. They would respond as did the Irish Newspaper who reported the death at a very advanced age of a worker on the Tutankhamun expedition. There was supposed to be a curse on all who worked on this project – the Mummy’s Curse. In spite of most living to an advanced age, when the last of them died at a very advanced age, the newspaper reported “Mummys’ Curse Strikes At Last.”
    You can’t win.

  3. At some date, back in the early 1990’s, there was an article in the edititorial section of The Wall Street Journal, in which the writer, who knew the chemist who formulated DDT. He wrote that to prove how safe DDT was to humans, he drank a teaspoon of it each morning before his co-workers. He lived well into his 90’s.

  4. Those wishing the banning of pesticides aren’t scientists they listen to the likes of A. Gore and David Suzuki. Our Agricultural Minister in BC is considering a ban on (cosmetic) pesticides here. You might be interested in the first leading question, then vote (the activists are, from every corner of their dens). Sure would be nice to have a “pro” activist group.


  5. Louie, It sounds like there were a lot of us who were exposed to DDT and have no residual effects. Wonder why they have not tested any of us? Do you think it’sbecause DDT actually works?

  6. I’m from south Louisiana, and anyone who lives or lived there in the 50s and 60s lived in a cloud of publicly fogged DDT every time the mosquitoes got bad, in addition to spraying in the home for roaches. Anecdotally, I’m not aware of any high requency of these diseases down there. Has anyone done a controlled study of people in lower Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes? I’ll bet not.

  7. I was about six in Virginia when I would at least once a week follow the mosquito abatement truck around the neighborhood on my bike enjoying the cool, thick mist that it produced. Neither I nor my siblings have any health effects almost half a century later.

  8. The career chemophobes are universally afflicted with a peculiar myopia that allows them to hallucinate molehills of bad consequences of the use of chemicals while totally ignoring the mountains of benefits from their use.

  9. I lived in the Philippines in the early 1950’s on a militlary base. The base was sprayed regularily (2x a month) for the entire time I lived there about 3 years. We even played in the spray breathing it deeply and getting it into our eyes. If you want to do a good study find those children, We were various ages so now we are grown, have had children, grandchildren, and great grand children. Sounds like good study subjects to me. Oh, by the way, no one in my family has been diagnosed with any illness mentioned in this information.

  10. I remember that one man from the EPA banned DDT after congressional hearings found it to be safe and effective. He has killed millions because if his ignorance.

  11. A great post, but one that is not going to get the attention it deserves, unlike the New York Times article. DDT should be reinstated as the best, cheapest and most effective insecticide and (even better) mosquito repellent known. It has minimal, if any, effects on human health and has proven efficacy in combating malaria. Fortunately, some wise governments have defied international objections and still use it to good effect. They keep their use quiet though!
    Malaria not only kills a huge number of people, it also debilitates a vast number of others. Sufferers are so weakened that they have difficulty working during times of stress, particularly the planting season. So its effects are far worse than the mortality statistics indicate.
    American readers, please send Steve’s article to your Congessmen/women. You do have influence.

  12. If I remember correctly, a toxicologist we had a conference in January suggested that an epidemiological study showed that men who had been exposed to DDT had a lower risk of prostate cancer. I also understand that there have been a few incidences of malaria contracted in the lower States?

  13. The other night I watched an episode on the Smithsonian channel about the major problem of Malaria related deaths among people living along and near the Zambezi river.


    Well meaning but misguided philanthropists traveled down the river distributing mosquito nets to desperate and frightened Africans, with no other available alternatives, in an effort to slow the persistent plague of Malaria and its related deaths, especially among children.

    Other prevention methods were given brief mention, the use of insecticides once, with no mention of DDT, proving the dangers involved when inaccurate, ill conceived and poorly executed scientific studies that predict cataclysmic outcomes become dogma; accepted worldwide with almost a religious fervor.

    Post Rachel Carson and her “Silent Spring,” carefully studied and documented evidence to the contrary about DDT goes largely ignored demonstrating another phenomenon; the immaturity and prejudice prevalent in the so called “intellectual, impartial, selfless” scientific community whose holy grail is proof of any hypothesis by the collection of relevant, carefully gathered and impartially analyzed evidence. More often it’s prove the preconceived assumptions followed by the denigration and suppression of conflicting views as a means of protecting an undeserved and unduly rewarded, reputation or preventing the exposure of outright fraud perhaps perpetrated for financial gain; particularly egregious in this case given that the result of the blind adherence to the dogma is the direct cause of the deaths of millions of Africans, mostly babies and young children. Despite the enormity of this tragedy the world continues to pander to the self righteous, smug, environmental extremists, incapable of even considering the possibility that they’re in error, that continue to prey on the emotions of a gullible, global majority.

    Would the world remain blind to this blatant and tragic inequity if malaria was a disease prevalent in the West? Would philanthropists be distributing mosquito nets along the Thames, the Danube or the Mississippi? I seriously doubt it.

  14. might have, could have, maybe, it is suspected, there appears to be, estimated, models show….

    Red flags for BS.

  15. Consider this: Today’s enviromentalist views humans as an infection on the planet. So, by laying claim to an effort to protect these poor people they deflect efforts to truly help them. This ultimately reduces the population while giving the whackos more control in the world.

  16. It is the same old story time and again they come up with to cover their behinds so that they won’t be blamed for banning a substance that has no effect on the human or animal populations. Same thing with R-12 the refrigerant that was changed to R-134 and does not work as well but I see no one doing studies on R-134. There were many 10,000 dollar fines levied against individuals and Junk yards . They would actually go to a junk yard looking for a part to an auto air conditioner and when the guy cut the hose he was handed a ticket to appear in court, costs and %10,000 fine. What a great way to increase revenue. The DDT thing is sad because people died over the non use of it . maybe as much as one million people died with malaria .As a child I used to spray the stuff all over our kitchen to kill the flies , I do not have two heads and I do not have diabetes nor have I ever experienced any low birth weights in my family , I am 67 now closer to 68 .

  17. Hasn’t lack of DDT been associated with infant mortality in Africa and other third world areas?

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