Published February 02, 2001
As First-World children eagerly anticipate the holiday season, millions of Third-World children are about to be condemned to certain death from malaria by international environmental elitists.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, Physicians for Social Responsibility and 250 other environmental groups will advocate the insecticide DDT be banned at next week's United Nations Environment Program meeting in Johannesburg. The meeting's aim is a treaty banning or restricting so-called persistent organic chemicals.
Malaria control experts oppose a DDT ban, arguing that spraying DDT in houses is inexpensive and highly effective in controlling malaria — especially in sub-Saharan Africa where 1 in 20 children die from malaria. Unfortunately, the eco-elites have out-maneuvered and outgunned public health advocates.
Saving lives doesn't interest DDT opponents who insist on recycling junk science to achieve their ill-considered goal of a pesticide-free world.
"DDT is a persistent, bioaccumulative, hormone-disrupting chemical," alleges the director of the WWF's anti-DDT effort. "It is associated in the public's mind with weakened eggshells and declining bird populations...," he added.
But there never was, and still isn't a scientific basis for DDT fearmongering.
The "public's mind" was first polluted with misinformation about DDT by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book Silent Spring. Carson incorrectly alleged that DDT harmed bird reproduction and caused cancer.
Carson wrote: "Dr. [James] DeWitt's now classic experiments [show] that exposure to DDT, even when doing no observable harm to the birds, may seriously affect reproduction. Quail, into whose diet DDT was introduced throughout the breeding season, survived and even produced normal numbers of fertile eggs. But few of the eggs hatched."
DeWitt actually reported no significant difference in egg hatching between birds fed DDT and birds not fed DDT.
Carson predicted a cancer epidemic that could hit "practically 100 percent" of the human population. This prediction hasn't materialized, no doubt because it was based on a 1961 epidemic of liver cancer in middle-aged rainbow trout — later attributed to aflatoxin. There is no credible evidence that DDT poses a cancer risk whatsoever.
As wrong as Carson was, the Environmental Protection Agency's action against DDT — the precedent for next week's efforts to ban the chemical — was worse.
Anti-DDT activism led to hearings before an EPA administrative law judge in 1971-72. After 7 months and 9,000 pages of testimony, the judge concluded "DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man... DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man... The use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife."
Despite the exculpatory ruling, then-EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus banned DDT.
Ruckelshaus didn't attend the hearings or read the transcript. He refused to release the memos used to make his decision, even rebuffing a Department of Agriculture request through the Freedom of Information Act.
As it turns out, Ruckelshaus belonged to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Ruckelshaus solicited donations for the anti-pesticide activist group on personal stationery stating, "EDF's scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won."
The WWF now alleges DDT disrupts hormonal processes to wreak havoc on immune, reproductive and nervous systems in laboratory animals, citing a 1999 report by the National Research Council.
The allegation conveniently overlooks the report's main conclusion that the scientific evidence is inadequate to suggest that low doses of chemicals typically found in the environment pose any risk. It's not surprising, after all, that animals administered high doses of chemicals develop all sorts of ill-effects; they've essentially been poisoned.
The WWF's chicanery doesn't end with the science. Publicly, the WWF claims it backed off the demand of a DDT ban by 2007 in favor of regulatory controls. Don't be fooled.
The would-be controls are so onerous and costly for the Third World that they would operate as a de facto ban. Of the 23 countries using DDT, only nine countries so far asked for exemptions under the impending treaty. The others either have stockpiled DDT in advance or have been scared off by the burdensome regulatory scheme, according to Roger Bate of FightingMalaria.org.
Donor agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) have pressured Belize, Bolivia and Mozambique not to use DDT — or risk losing their aid money, adds Bate.
The AID's blackmail is eerily similar to its 1970s view that the failure of the Global Malaria Eradication Program (1956-1969) was a blessing in disguise. "Better off dead than riotously reproducing," an AID official said.
A committee of the National Academy of Sciences wrote in 1970, "To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT... in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that otherwise would have been inevitable."
The WWF et al. often exploit "the children" as a stalking horse for their dubious agenda. Their effort to ban DDT is a chilling reminder of this cynicism.