[ RadSafe ] Nuclear Power/ Greenhouse Effect/ Massive AfricanHumanImpacts

Maury Siskel maurysis at ev1.net
Fri Oct 28 13:51:31 CDT 2005

Regarding Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, DDT, and bird egg shells: 
Carson referenced, in Silent Spring, two published studies by James 
Dewitt. Just a few years ago, I obtained a copy of both of those studies 
and verified that Carson drew conclusions from them that were very 
nearly the reverse of Dewitt's findings. Jaro's description below is 
accurate. Carson grossly distorted conclusions drawn from Dewitt's data 
about the effects of DDT.

I have read some of the primary research literature on DDT collected 
since DDT was banned by Ruckleshaus, the first head of EPA. I am 
persuaded that it is a sad history of political distortion having little 
to do with science and experimental data. The political goal was to 
establish firmly the existence of the newly established EPA; the goal 
was not to save humans or any other wildlife. I believe that many 
researchers pursued the DDT issues in good faith to answer valid 
scientific concerns about the effects of DDT. I do not believe the 
political cast of characters in this episode were similarly motivated.

The scientific goals were reached successfully by the scientists; the 
political goals were reached successfully by the bureaucrats. We now 
have no DDT, lots of malaria, and a firmly established EPA.
Maury&Dog   (maurysis at ev1.net
"Demagoguery beats data in the making of public policy"

Jaro wrote:

>Jim wrote: " the assertions of millions of deaths due to the banning of DDT
>are hyperbolic."
>I first came across the DDT debate in my college Biology textbook by Helena
>Curtis (which I still have). She tells very briefly of the magnificent
>success of eradicating malaria deaths in certain tropical countries -- and
>how the disease returned almost to pre-DDT years following its baning -- in
>those countries that unfortunately chose to follow the US's lead - or were
>unable to secure an equally low-cost supply following the shutdown of US DDT
>production lines....
>>From the article pasted below :
>" In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where about 2.5 million cases of malaria were
>recorded annually in the 1950s, regular spraying led to just 31 reported
>cases in 1962.
>Today, there are roughly 300 to 500 million cases of malaria a year and 2.7
>million deaths. The judicious use of DDT has the potential to make a huge
>impact. "
>The ban on DDT has hidden cost
>While it may be a double-edged sword, the feared pesticide can save lives
>Joe Schwarcz [The Montreal Gazette, 14 July 2003]
>Joe Schwarcz is director of McGill University's Office for Science and
>Society (www.mcgill.ca/chempublic). He can be heard every Sunday from 4-5
>p.m. on CJAD. joe.schwarcz at mcgill.ca
>When the Germans retreated from the Italian city of Naples during the Second
>World War, they dynamited the city's water system. The inhabitants had no
>water to wash with, and body lice proliferated. The result was an outbreak
>of "typhus bellicus," or "war typhus," a disease that in previous wars had
>killed millions. This time though, the Allies had an answer. They had DDT.
>About 1.3 million Neapolitans were dusted with a mixture of talcum powder
>and DDT, and within three weeks the epidemic was stopped in its tracks. But
>that was only the beginning.
>DDT turned out to be highly effective against mosquitoes that transmitted
>malaria Sprayed on the walls of houses in the tropics, it would keep
>mosquitoes away for weeks.
>In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where about 2.5 million cases of malaria were
>recorded annually in the 1950s, regular spraying led to just 31 reported
>cases in 1962. That year also marked the publication of Rachel Carson's
>Silent Spring, in which she described DDT as the "elixir of death." She wasn
>'t referring to insects.
>Carson, who trained as a biologist, was convinced that DDT and other similar
>pesticides had unleashed a catastrophic plague on the world. She predicted
>that wildlife would be affected to an extent where no birds would be left to
>sing in the spring, that the persistent DDT would accumulate in the bodies
>of mammals causing cancer rates to soar.
>She was right about the persistence and accumulation of DDT. Both it and its
>major metabolite, DDE, persist in the environment that can have "gender
>bending" for many years. They are essentially insoluble in water but are
>very soluble in fat. This means that they accumulate in fatty tissue and
>build up in the food chain. While plankton in water may have very little
>DDT, the fish that eat the plankton will have more, and birds that eat the
>fish more yet. We all have some DDT in our flesh that can be traced back to
>the massive spraying of fields and vast amounts used in insect control
>before 1972, when most uses of DDT were banned in North America. Indeed, in
>1962, 80 million kilograms of DDT were used.
>Carson was correct when she said that DDT can be found in polar bears and at
>sites far removed from where it was applied. But its presence is not enough
>to condemn it.
>What other evidence did Rachel Carson have? Silent Spring is dedicated to
>Albert Schweitzer and his quote that "man has lost the capacity to foresee
>and to forestall and will end by destroying the Earth." Carson's implication
>was that the famous physician was speaking about DDT. Actually, as he makes
>clear in his autobiography, Schweitzer was a proponent of DDT to control
>malaria, and the quote refers not to DDT, but to nuclear warfare.
>This is not the only instance in which Carson played loose with the facts.
>She references a paper by James DeWitt in the Journal of Agricultural and
>Food Chemistry to support her thesis that a decline in certain bird
>populations was due to the thinning of  egg shells caused by DDT. Actually,
>the reference does not offer much support. DeWitt fed quail DDT at doses
>roughly 3,000 times greater than any human was ever exposed to and found
>that 80 per cent of their eggs hatched. The hatch rate in the control group,
>not fed DDT, was 84 per cent. Hardly a spectacular difference, especially
>when the huge dose is considered. Carson is also silent about the fact that
>in the same study, eggs from pheasants fed DDT had a higher hatch rate than
>What about the possibility that DDT is harmful to humans? It certainly
>presents no acute toxicity. I wouldn't recommend it as a dietary staple, but
>J. Gordon Edwards of San Jose State University, an expert on the toxicity of
>insecticides and a vocal critic of DDT's opponents, would often begin a
>lecture on DDT by eating a spoonful. Now retired, he still climbs mountains
>at the age of 83. Human volunteers have eaten 35 milligrams of DDT for two
>years with no consequences. Of course, of greater concern is the possibility
>of chronic effects. Can DDT cause cancer in the long run? Apparently not.
>Over 80 peer-reviewed scientific publications attest to this fact, many
>having followed workers who had extensive DDT exposure.
>National Cancer Institute researchers found no link between tissue samples
>of DDT and the disease. This was comforting, because DDT does have possible
>hormone disrupting effects, and a connection to breast cancer had been
>hypothesized. Certainly, the presence of compounds that can have "gender
>bending" effects in the environment is undesirable. But not as undesirable
>as people dying. And they are dying of malaria in droves.
>Why Ceylon stopped spraying DDT in 1964 is contentious, but what is clear is
>that by 1969, the country was again recording 2.5 million cases of malaria a
>year. In 1996, because of environmental pressure, South Africa stopped
>spraying with DDT. A malaria epidemic ensued and was only curtailed when DDT
>application was resumed four years later. Today, there are roughly 300 to
>500 million cases of malaria a year and 2.7 million deaths. The judicious
>use of DDT has the potential to make a huge impact. Yes, there are concerns
>about insects developing resistance. Indeed, that was one of the reasons
>cited for banning DDT. Actually, the resistance was fostered by farmers who
>way overused DDT on cotton crops, not by using DDT to control mosquitoes.
>There is also clear evidence that DDT even deters mosquitoes that are
>resistant to its insecticidal properties.
>DDT may be a double-edged sword, but its unqualified ban seems shortsighted.
>The world may not need DDT for agriculture any more, but it needs it to
>battle malaria. As I sit here, thinking about an appropriate conclusion, I'm
>listening to birds happily chirping outside my window. But I also know that
>during the time it took me to write this column, more than 200 children have
>been permanently silenced by malaria. Silenced by conclusions about DDT that
>went beyond the science.
>No virus found in this outgoing message.
>Checked by AVG Free Edition.
>Version: 7.1.362 / Virus Database: 267.12.5/150 - Release Date: 10/27/2005
>You are currently subscribed to the RadSafe mailing list
>Before posting a message to RadSafe be sure to have read and understood the RadSafe rules. These can be found at: http://radlab.nl/radsafe/radsaferules.html
>For information on how to subscribe or unsubscribe and other settings visit: http://radlab.nl/radsafe/

More information about the RadSafe mailing list