Posted by: reformedmusings | January 3, 2009

More on the DDT myths

The trolls have been active, so I thought that I’d follow up my previous posts here and here. I have no intention of making a career of this, so this will hopefully be the last one. I’m more concerned that lives are saved in the third world than that political trolls in the west are fed.

There are many excellent resources available to all. I mentioned the Africa Fighting Malaria organization previously as a resource. In addition to advocacy, they engage the medical community on studies impacting their efforts to save lives. To this end, they took issue with a Berkley study on DDT effects (you know Berkley, that bastion of liberalism where science is just a means to a political end). After commenting that:

Africa Fighting Malaria rejects this conclusion and finds it both irresponsible and misleading.

AFA goes on to point out:

The research by Eskenazi et al. is the latest in a long line of studies that have attempted to find associations between DDT and its metabolite DDE and harm to human health. In the past several decades, innumerable studies have examined DDT’s toxicity and claimed “links” between DDT and human cancers, reduced maternal lactation, pre-term births, low birth weight and endocrine disruption. The overwhelming majority of these studies has not been successfully replicated and ultimately failed to demonstrate any actual human harm. DDT is known to be minimally toxic to humans, and is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” – along with coffee, beer, peanut butter and a host of everyday comestibles – by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Whoa, beer? Now we’re getting personal. The interesting point is that the bulk of such studies as Berkley’s have failed to be replicated. The scientific method depends on independent replication of experiments and results. Experimental procedures must be recorded in enough detail that anyone with the correct facilities can repeat the experiment and hopefully duplicate the results. Sure, true believers can cite uncorroborated studies and pretend that they are definitive, but in fact, studies and experiments are worthless without independent corroboration. Remember that when the zealots yank out citations. Check to see if the experiments were independently replicated and corroborated? The AFA article hit the nail on the head.

As I said earlier, science is best measured by its results and impacts in the real world. The laboratory isn’t the real world. In the real world, risks and benefits must be balanced to achieve a given, desired outcome. To that end:

Richard Tren, Director of Africa Fighting Malaria notes, “These studies amount to little more than momentary scare stories designed to direct popular attention to unknown, hypothetical risks from DDT and to ignore the considerable and ongoing benefits of using DDT in malaria control in conjunction with mosquito nets and effective drugs. The findings of Eskenazi et al. are neither conclusive nor relevant to the use of DDT with IRS programs for malaria control.”

DDT has saved millions of lives from malaria and continues to protect millions more from a disease that causes pain, suffering, childhood impairment, economic loss ($12 billion annually on the African continent) and the deaths of over a million people globally each year. This continued failure to balance the real risks that children in malarial areas face with hypothetical risks from DDT reveals a startling lack of scientific integrity, as well as ill-conceived ideas about the economics of public health policy. The media coverage of this singular, un-replicated study begs the question of how many more children and pregnant women will die from a preventable disease as a result of yet another unconfirmed scare story?

That’s the bottom line. Fear vs. reality. Risks vs. benefits. That’s the real world. Eco-socialists try to raise the fear level so that, for instance, sacrificing economic survival seems a fair trade to avoid a boiling (or freezing, or overpopulated, or starving, etc.) planet. Or in this case, that millions of deaths from malaria in the third world are a worthy trade for the eco-socialists’ political power and influence.

A relevant extract from the DDT section from the excellent 3rd edition of Facts vs. Fears, A Review of the Greatest Unfounded Health Scares of Recent History (pdf) by the American Council on Science and Health lists key faults in a number of studies. The short extract alone cites 49 supporting references. Here’s a sampling of the misconduct that supposedly supports banning DDT:

In addition, later research refuted the original studies that had pointed to DDT as a cause for eggshell thinning. After reassessing their findings using more modern methodology, Drs. Hickey and Anderson admitted that the egg extracts they had studied contained little or no DDT and said they were now pursuing PCBs, chemicals used as capacitor insulators, as the culprit.20

When carefully reviewed, Dr. Bitman’s study revealed that the quail in the study were fed a diet with a calcium content of only 0.56 percent (a normal quail diet consists of 2.7 percent calcium). Calcium deficiency is a known cause of thin eggshells.21–23 After much criticism, Bitman repeated the test, this time with sufficient calcium levels. The birds produced eggs without thinned shells.24

Again, can study results be independently replicated? If not, smell a rat. Yet, such faulty studies are regularly cited by eco-socialists as gospel. Be skeptical.

In addition, ACSH has a nice summary of Rachael Carson’s legacy, a 30th-year DDT Ban anniversary summary, and a number of other good articles. Search their site on “DDT” for a list.

Dr. J. Gordon Edwards wrote an excellent article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons called DDT: A Case Study in Scientific Fraud (pdf). This outstanding article with 76 referenced citations covered the ongoing DDT controversy in detail. He cited the problems with past studies, the myths of its various supposed affects on wildlife and people, the effect of the fraud on science itself, the benefits of DDT weighed against the unsubstantiated problems, and the current row over malaria control and its treatment myths. Here’s an excerpt that shows the blatant scientific fraud by the eco-socialists:

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.

Here’s the endgame of the original DDT ban by the EPA:

In his final 113-page decision issued on April 25, 1972,
Hearing Examiner Edmund Sweeney wrote: “DDT is not a
carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic hazard to man. The uses
under regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on
fresh water fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other
wildlife…and…there is a present need for essential uses of DDT.”

This decision, however, was overruled by EPA Administrator
William Ruckelshaus, who never attended a single day of the seven
months of DDT hearings. In his 40-page Final Opinion, handed
down on June 2, 1972, he omitted most scientific data, misnamed
the major chemicals involved, and proposed that farmers “should
use organophosphates, like carbaryl, instead.” (Carbaryl is not an
organophosphate). He also recommended substituting parathion, a
very deadly chemical, for DDT. He later wrote that “in such
decisions the ultimate judgement remains political” (W.
Ruckelshaus, letter to American Farm Bureau President Allan
Grant,April 26, 1979).

Read that on any eco-socialist blogs? I hope that you’re getting the picture. Dr. Edwards’ article is a must-read if you are at all interested in the truth about DDT or the processes used in other frauds being perpetrated in the name of science.

Lastly, people are still doing studies on DDT. Why so, over 30 years after the eco-socialists achieved that power they so craved? Because of the explosion of malaria and the cry from the third world for more DDT spraying. If, as has been the case to date, DDT proves effective, the eco-socialists won’t look so good. So, poorly done statistical studies occasionally claim to find bad things linked to DDT. Most of these studies have either poor controls, faulty methodology, or more unknown variables than known. The New York Times, no bastion of conservatism, reported: Study Discounts DDT Role in Breast Cancer:

Previous, smaller studies led to contradictory results, and some had design flaws that made them less than definitive.

The new study, by Dr. David J. Hunter, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues, was larger and better designed than any before it….The investigators found no relationship between the level of DDT and PCB’s in women’s blood and their likelihood of subsequently developing breast cancer.

This again shows that the issues involved in this 3-decade fraud go well beyond what I’ve covered in my posts here. There were fatal flaws in so-called research, including methodology, improper controls, and assumptions – even using sick, tumor-prone rodents for DDT cancer studies. Dr. Edwards’ excellent article highlights most of these in some detail.

Again, I’m not going to make a career of this discussion, so let me close with this: Rachel Carson wrote in her misleading book Silent Spring:

Who has decided—who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power.

Let me ask this: Who had the right to decide for the millions of human beings in Africa and Asia who were not consulted that they and their children would die of malaria as a sacrifice for supreme value of eco-socialist power in the west? Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, and their cohorts and apologists were the despotic authoritarians, perpetrating a scientific hoax that condemned millions of poor in the third world to a miserable death from malaria.

That’s Rachel Carson’s legacy – not a silent spring, but the silent graves of millions of men, women, and children in Africa and Asia.



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