Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ban on DDT and the rise of malaria

From Ashley Martin at the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law*:

In 1972, EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus banned the use of
DDT in the United States after nearly a year of hearings on the
matter. Ruckelshaus’ decision went against the recommendation of
the hearing administrator, who had found that “there is a present
need for the essential uses of DDT” and that DDT posed no great
threats to humans or wildlife. However, the EPA’s decision
reflected public and political opinions of the time, which strongly
opposed DDT due to its perceived harms. Following the ban of DDT
in the United States, the use of DDT waned internationally.
American decisions carry disproportionate weight worldwide;
therefore, DDT’s toxic image coupled with America’s denunciation of
the chemical has effectively made DDT unavailable, even for
malarious nations. Political pressures, financial funding, and social
opinion all contributed to a decline in the use of DDT throughout the
world for agricultural and public health uses; low levels of DDT use
continue today as major donors are reluctant to finance the use of
DDT and global institutions discourage its use. Indeed, not a single
industrial country currently uses DDT. The chemical that once was
seen as a savior in fighting diseases globally is now shunned
throughout the world.

The alternatives to DDT for malaria control—including nets,
other chemicals, and drugs—have proven to be less effective, both
with regard to cost and to success. Indeed, the strongest correlation
with an increase in malaria is a decrease in the use of DDT. Actual
case studies support this conclusion: Madagascar, Venezuela, Belize,
and South Africa all experienced increased rates of malaria in their
populations after banning the use of DDT. Similarly, Columbia and
Peru experienced a doubling of the risk of malaria when they stopped
DDT spraying in the 1990s. When South Africa abandoned the use
of DDT for malaria control in 1996, switching instead to pyrethroids,
malaria rates skyrocketed from about 6,000 cases to 61,000 cases over
the span of five years. In 2000, South Africa returned to using DDT
in order to regain control of the epidemic, and as a result decreased
the number of malaria cases by 45,000 over two years. The World
Health Organization (WHO) delegates reported in 2000 that no cost-
effective or proven alternatives that are less toxic than DDT exist to
replace it. In fact, the use of alternative means of protection not
only seems less effective in combating malaria, but essentially results
in mere risk transformation. Organochlorides, the chemicals that
replace DDT, have more immediate and significant risks of toxicity,
which are exaggerated by users’ unfamiliarity with them. The
number of accidental pesticide poisonings, for example, has increased
14% over the decade following the ban of DDT.
Repeatedly, the cessation of the use of DDT has caused a large spike in malaria deaths, and use of DDT markedly diminishes malaria deaths.

The environmentalist war on DDT has killed tens of millions of people-- mostly children and pregnant women in the Third World. As soon as malaria was eradicated from the rich countries by the use of DDT, greenies who had eradicated malaria with DDT in their own countries worked 24-7 to ban it in the rest of the world. They are still working feverishly.

Environmentalists refuse to acknowledge their responsibility for this crime against humanity.

(Vol 41:677. 2008)


  1. How to behave like a crackpot: find one obscure reference published in a journal having nothing to do with the subject (public health, epidemiology), elevate it to conclusive expert opinion, and completely disregard the large volume of evidence already presented against your claims, written by people who really are experts.

    Congratulations! You're now officially a nut case.

    1. Which of the facts that Martin cites are untrue?

  2. As usual, Egnor repeats lies by right-wing crackpots on a subject Egnor knows nothing about.


    You're a lying scumbag, Egnor.

    1. Which of the facts that Martin cites are untrue?

    2. Michael,

      'Which of the facts that Martin cites are untrue?'

      You're engaging in the standard dishonest creationist tactic of quote mining. Ashley Martin has written a much longer article with both positive and negative statements about DDT.

      A link to the complete article is:


    3. And Michael's dishonesty is illustrated most clearly by the title of Ashley Martin's article: 'The regulation of DDT: a choice between evils'.

      No mention of DDT actually being banned.

  3. Michael,

    You're a dishonest idiot. The article is from the March, 2008 issue of the journal. You've only quoted two paragraphs from a much longer article, which also notes 'the problem of DDT and its relationship to malaria presents a choice between two evils. When used, DDT causes irreparable harm to the environment and human health. When not used, malaria sweeps across countries, killing hundreds of millions of people'.

    Actually, it's a very poor article, with a lot of exaggerated and incorrect statements. For example 'Perhaps the most troubling of these was (and still is) that POPs, including DDT, are carcinogenic in humans and can damage the nervous system'. There's no evidence that DDT is carcinogenic in humans.

    The article refers positively to Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring'. Did you miss these references?

    Actually, I finished the Cato Institute book 'Silent Spring 50' last week. I actually don't have any problem with the authors' criticism of 'Silent Spring'. The criticisms can be summed up as:

    Rachel Carson was almost entirely concerned with the use of large amounts of DDT in agriculture and spraying of large areas for control of insect pests, and only made passing approval of its use in infectious disease control - which a casual reader would miss.

    She had an erroneous belief that the increasing incidence of cancer in America was due to DDT and similar chemicals, ignoring the increasing cigarette consumption and aging of the American population. There's no evidence that DDT is carcinogenic.

    She assumed that DDT was replacing natural harmless pesticides (not true many of them contained such toxic chemicals as lead arsenate).

    She insisted that biological methods of pest control (eg introducing new predators of insect pests) are better than insecticides such as DDT (not true - in Australia, we've got a major problem with the spread of the cane toad, introduced to control, unsuccessfully, beetles damaging sugar cane crops in Queensland).

    She erroneously asserted that there's 'a balance in nature' and also has a simplistic concept of evolution that's teleological and mystical.

    She over-stressed the 'precautionary principle' (not that she used this term, although she did state that any amount of DDT can be harmful) without noting that everything has risks and benefits, and which have to be balanced.

    And most importantly, she died in 1964, and didn't have a chance to expand on her beliefs.

    I think it's fair to state that:

    DDT wasn't banned globally.

    Widespread use in agriculture and widespread spraying for control of disease carrying insects are definitely harmful and needed to be banned. Which eliminated its use in developed countries.

    It was banned for general use in developed countries, which reduced considerably its production and made it more expensive.

    In developing malaria prone countries, its use in agriculture should remain banned. But it's still an extremely effective indoor mosquito control measure in repelling mosquitos even if it doesn't kill them.

    Using it within homes has little risk and a lot of benefit in malarial areas - so it should be continued.

    Environmentalists who want to see DDT permanently banned for all uses are wrong.

    But DDT was never banned for internal mosquito control. The problem was that developing countries with malaria just didn't have the resources to persist with the necessary malaria control program.

    In the '50s, it was thought that malaria could be eradicated by stopping transmission of malaria by internal spraying of houses with DDT and aggressively treating cases of malaria for a period of 4 years, after which the occasional rare case of malaria could be covered by the countries' ordinary healthcare system. So the American Congress generously funded a malaria eradication program in 1958. And the money ran out in 1963, and wasn't renewed (perhaps Congress thought that it had been eradicated?)

  4. Bachfiend has an accurate summary of our current understanding of DDT and an accurate criticism of Egnor's dishonest quote mine.

    Bachfiend's response will have absolutely no effect on Egnor, who never admits he is wrong about anything, and is only interested in any issue to the degree it can be used to bash atheists, liberals, and environmentalists. He is the perfect ideologue - completely impervious to facts, subtlety, and any kind of rational argument.

    1. "Egnor, who never admits he is wrong about anything"

      Not true. I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

    2. Michael,

      And once you thought you were funny (ha-ha, not peculiar, which you are all the time), but you were wrong.

      You persist in obfuscation. When are you going to admit that you were wrong in taking selected quotes out of context and ignoring the remainder of articles, as shown in this case of the article 'the Regulation of DDT: a choice between evils'.

      Regulation, not banning. Choice of evils, meaning widespread agricultural use is to be avoided, OK - banned, but use within human housing as a malaria control is a boon.

    3. You're playing with words. DDT remains the most effective agent against malaria, and environmental organizations have been waging a war on it for 50 years. Much of pesticide hysteria is junk science. Tens of millions of people have died unnecessarily from insect-borne diseases, and you don't have the simple decency to own up to what has been done.

    4. Michael,

      I'm not playing with words. Regulation isn't banning. DDT was never banned. Why don't you crack open a book and inform yourself as to DDT. I suggest that you read the Cato Institute book 'Silent Spring 50' you'd featured last week. It's actually an entirely fair account.

      You love the term 'junk science' to denigrate anything you don't like. The physical property of DDT to persist for a long time in the environment, which made it ideal as a malaria control measure within homes, made it too hazardous for general agricultural use.

      The environmentalists who want it banned for all use fearing that allowing it to be used in small amounts in a limited distribution for malaria control would allow it to be used unrestrictedly are just wrong.

      How many times do I need to state that general use of DDT is bad but restricted use in mosquito/malaria control is good?

    5. I have read the book. It is very clear that DDT hysteria is junk science, and that the environmentalist jihad against it has seriously impaired its use, with millions of dead people as a result.

      Many private and government funders of malaria control programs won't pay for programs that use DDT, and as the author of the paper I quoted above notes, there have been a number of greenie schemes to stop using DDT, with dead people invariably as a result.

      You are shamelessly shilling for lethal junk science. Just like AGW.

    6. Michael,

      I don't believe you. You show clear signs of cognitive dissonance; choosing your conclusion and fabricating your argument, by such tactics as selective quote mining, to support it.

      AGW and DDT as general environmental hazard are not junk science (you're thinking of ID and hylemorphic dualism). DDT is a well accepted and recognized boon to human health when used in a limited fashion, as in the eradication of lice in Italy during WWII to prevent epidemic typhus, and also in malaria control (but not eradication).

      Care to quote something from 'Silent Spring 50' to support your argument. Chapter 8 might be of use ...

    7. Name the documented harm caused by DDT.

    8. Michael,

      You never answer questions I put to you. Are you that stupid?

      One documented harm of DDT is killing useful non-target insects such as bees, in addition to the targetted insect pests. DDT is a persistent poison. That's what makes it so useful for malaria control.

      How about quoting from 'Silent Spring 50' to support your argument?