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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Environmentalism Kills?

Or at least the knee-jerk and extreme factions have indirectly - according to John Stossel's article today. The issue stems from the disallowance of the highly-effective pesticide DDT:
Two to three million people die of malaria every year, Uganda's health minister has said, because the U.S. government is afraid of a chemical called DDT. The United States does spend your tax dollars trying to fight malaria in Africa, but it won't fund DDT. The money goes for things like mosquito netting over beds (even though not everyone in Africa even has a bed). The office that dispenses those funds, the Agency for International Development, acknowledges DDT is safe, but it will not spend a penny on it.
Now the Libertarian in me begs to ask the question, "why should we pay to spray pesticide in Africa?" but that is neither here nor there regarding the lie about DDT perpetrated by environmentalist activist lobby (h/t Freepers).

First, the scientific study that led to the banning of DDT was scewed:
The alleged thinning of eggshells by DDT in the diet was effective propaganda; however, actual feeding experiments proved that there was very little, if any, correlation between DDT levels and shell thickness. Thin shells may result when birds are exposed to fear, restraint, mercury, lead, parathion, or other agents, or when deprived of adequate calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin D, light, calories, or water. While quail fed a diet containing 2 percent calcium produced thick shells, a calcium content of only 1 percent resulted in shells 9 percent thinner than normal. In the presence of lead, shells were 14 percent thinner, and with mercury, 8 percent thinner.

Bitman and coworkers demonstrated eggshell thinning with DDT by reducing calcium levels to 0.56 percent from the normal 2.5 percent. After this work was exposed as anti-DDT propaganda, Bitman continued his work for another year. Instead of the calcium-deficient diets, however, he fed the quail 2.7 percent calcium in their food. The shells they produced were not thinned at all by the DDT. Unfortunately, the editor of Science refused to publish the results of that later research. Editor Philip Abelson had already told Dr. Thomas Jukes of the University of California in Berkeley that Science would never publish anything that was not antagonistic toward DDT (T. Jukes, personal communication). Bitman therefore had to publish the results of his legitimate feeding experiments in an obscure specialty journal, and many readers of continued to believe that DDT could cause birds to lay thin-shelled eggs.

JunkScience also has the short and sweet on the DDT debate.

Stossel asks an important question:
Why? Fifty years ago, Americans sprayed tons of DDT everywhere. Farmers used it to repel bugs, and health officials to fight mosquitoes that carry malaria. Nobody worried much about chemicals then. People really did just sit there and eat in clouds of DDT. When the trucks came to spray, people often acted as if the ice cream truck had come. They were so happy to have mosquitoes repelled. Huge amounts of DDT were sprayed on food and people, who just breathed it in.

Did they all get cancer and die?

The sad thing is that we in the U.S. do not have to worry much about insect-borne diseases (aside from the West Nile scare, and that wouldn't have happened if we still used DDT), but those in under-developed countries in Africa, Asia, and South America do.
"If it's a chemical, it must be bad," said scientist Amir Attaran. "If it's DDT, it must be awful. And that's fine if you're a rich, white environmentalist. It's not so fine if you're a poor black kid who is about to lose his life from malaria."
But hey, those who are driving the environmentalist lobby think there is too many people on Mother Earth anyway.