Written by Dr. Donald R. Roberts, Ph.D. with forward by Kelly Wolf
So, you think you know all about DDT? It's that horrible toxic poison that was killing off all of our bald eagles right? It was a hot topic in the 1970's and here in the U.S., at a time when the American public was less cynical and more naive, the shiny new environmentalist groups were busy "looking out for all of us" and telling us that they were fighting the fight to "protect the public from the evils of big business and corporations". Little did we know that there were (and still are) multitudes of hidden agendas among those "for your own good" environmental groups.
Americans chose to listen to these "we are doing it for your own good!" groups. So these environmentalist groups, who we have since discovered to be nothing more than socialist elitists who found a different way of hiding their objectives of cramming their One World Government socialism down the rest of the country's throat, and we did nothing while they lied and produced fraudulent discourse as to the evils of DDT. They were successful in getting it banned. Of course, they have never wanted to take responsibility for the negative consequences of their actions or even acknowledge that there ARE negative consequences, but the facts remain! They are responsible for massive death and immeasurable suffering in countries who were and are still battling malaria today. Half a Billion will be infected just this year, with the majority of those being children under the age of 5, millions die and those who don't die suffer unimaginable pain and delirium for the rest of their lives.
The following article is in response to a request from a RightSideNews.com editor after noting a "comment" submitted by one of their readers to the article: Crisis! New York Style vs The Real Thing. It would seem that the reader bought into those eco-terrorist environmentalist groups propaganda and lies of the 70's and felt obliged to remind us all about the evils of DDT.
Because of respect for Mr. Driessen who authored the article which received the comment and his extensive work in the field on this matter, RightSideNews.com felt it important to ask Mr. Driessen if he could either respond to the comment himself or if he might provide us with another informed authority on this topic who would be qualified to respond to the comment and address the inaccuracies contained therein. Paul Driessen came through with the win for us again.
Dr. Donald R. Roberts, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Division of Tropical Health, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD; Author: The Excellent Powder. DDT's political and scientific history (please read his complete bio at the end of this article) submits this response:
In response to comments by Ed Darrell, I agree that we need to be clear about the facts. As for benefits versus harm of DDT use, the U.S. population underwent almost 30 years of heavy DDT use and DDT exposures.
What were the huge decrements in health of U.S. populations attributable to those many years of DDT exposure? Our heavy exposures to DDT mostly ended in January 1973.
What have been the great improvements in major health parameters over more than 30 years attributable to ending heavy DDT exposures? The answer to both questions is that we can neither prove health harm during years of DDT exposures nor health improvements after DDT exposures were stopped.
In Darrell's comments about benefits versus harms, there is no definable harm from DDT that can be compared to the huge benefit of our use of DDT to help eliminate malaria from the U.S., or from freeing almost a billion people of endemic malaria, or of having eliminated the risk of dengue fever and urban yellow fever from almost all countries of Central and South America. Those gains were sustained for almost three decades and reversed only when environmentalist carried out their global smear campaigns against DDT that stopped its use in valuable disease control programs.
The World Health Organization stated in 1969 "DDT has been the main agent in eradicating malaria in countries whose population total 550 million people. Of having saved about 5 million lives and prevented 100 million illnesses in the first 8 years of its use, of having recently reduced the annual malaria death-rate in India from 750,000 down to 1,500, and of having saved at least 2 billion people in the world without causing the loss of a single life by poisoning from DDT alone."
Similarily, Dr Guzman Garcia-Martin, Chief of Malaria Eradication in the Pan American Health Organization stated that
"To date, there is no insecticide that could effectively replace DDT which would permit the continuation of the eradication program or maintain the conquests made so far. The withdrawal of DDT will therefore represent a regression to a malaria situation similar to that in 1945."
Other leading health organization and officials stated that DDT did not pose a threat to public health. For example, National Academy of Science (1969):
"Available evidence does not indicate that present levels of pesticides in man's food and environment produce an adverse effect on his health."
Environmental Protection Agency, Samuel W. Simmons (1972):
"Malaria control campaigns have extended over 2 decades, and no toxic effects have been reported among the hundreds of millions of people who live in houses that have been sprayed nor among the 200,000 or more spray-men applying the material."
Communicable Disease Center, Atlanta, Georgia (1969):
"Although DDT has been studied more extensively in man than any other known insecticide, no concrete evidence has been presented that it presently constitutes any health hazard to man. Its use record with regard to human safety is unparalleled in the history of insecticides."
Assistant Attorney General of the United States, William Ruckelshaus, (1970):
"DDT is not endangering the public health and has an amazing and exemplary record of safe use. DDT, when properly used at recommended concentrations, does not cause a toxic response in man or other mammals and is not harmful. The carcinogenic claims regarding DDT are unproved speculation."
United States Surgeon General Steinfield (1972):
"The safety, long-lasting action, and low cost of DDT make it the only known insecticide that can be used on the scale required in malaria eradication programs within the resprograms or that can be reasonably expected to be available to them in the foreseeable future."
World Health Organization, (1970):
"There had been no toxic effects recorded among the 200,000 spraymen employed and the 600 million population living in sprayed houses over a long period of time."
Even as late as 1972, the U.S. Surgeon General stated:
"We have no information on which to indict DDT either as a tumorigen or as a carcinogen for man and on the basis now available, I cannot conclude DDT represents an imminent health hazard."
Last but not least, it should be noted that at the time of EPA's DDT hearings in 1972, national and international public health officials stood united against political and regulatory controls that would minimize availability, increase costs, or in any way jeopardize future uses of DDT in disease control programs. Public health professionals recognized the overwhelming benefit of using DDT for disease prevention.
Indeed, the World Health Organization and many health professionals and international and national health organizations still support continued use of DDT for disease control programs.
Darrell is terribly wrong in his statements about the freedom of countries to use DDT. The relevant facts are that by terms of the Stockholm Convention, DDT is approved for public health use.
However, this does not mean that the countries are free to use it - they definitely are not! Vast sums of money are being used by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to get countries to not use DDT. The political struggles that ensued in Uganda when the Ministry of Health attempted to use DDT for malaria control are telling. The anti-DDT propaganda was rolled out and the country was eventually prevented from using DDT. Pressures came from organic food producers, the pyrethroid insecticide producers [vested interest to sell their product in place of DDT], threats from the European Union about trade barriers, and most important of all, the environmental activists both inside and outside the country.
Similar tactics are used in other countries to stop malaria programs from using DDT. Yet, where it is being used, the people benefit greatly by dramatic reductions in malaria infections and malaria deaths.
Today, DDT is being manufactured in India. In a 2007 budget, the Stockhom Convention Secretariat programmed $150 million for getting China and India to stop producing DDT. China did not renew its license for DDT production. So, at this stage, it appears that only India is producing DDT.
Darrell's comments about malaria deaths being lower today as opposed to what they were when DDT was banned is a flagrant red herring. The facts are, many countries of Africa were not included in the global malaria eradication program of yesteryear. Most malaria deaths occurred in Africa during those years. That is still true today. Yet, DDT was not widely used in African countries.
Additionally, malaria death rates were lowered by increasing emphasis on early case treatment. Change in emphasis began in the late 1970s along with increasing political pressure to stop the use of insecticides for protecting people from malaria and other diseases. The result was the inexorable increases in disease rates but lower death rates. The other result was an increase in problems of drug resistance in malaria parasites.
Darrell's facts are equally non factual in reference to the EPA's role in campaigns against DDT. Clearly Darrell is not aware of EPA's activism against DDT as typified by its role in negotiations for the Stockholm Convention or its role in the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The former was an attempt at global elimination of DDT and the latter forced Mexico to stop using DDT in its malaria program.
As stated on an EPA website, "The United States has taken a leading role to reduce and/or eliminate certain POPs and their releases on a global basis." (see "The excellent powder. DDT's political and scientific history," pages 330-31). The "certain POPs" included DDT. There is no ambiguity in this statement, for the last 30 plus years the EPA has been active against any and all uses of DDT anywhere in the world.
As for statements about DDT manufacturers failing to clean up their sites, environmental regulations have and continue to increase their demands on what is and what is not required. Environmental regulations at the time of shutting down DDT manufacturing had no similarity to the regulations of today. With the EPA ban on DDT use in the U.S., the DDT market collapsed and manufacturers went out of business (what else could they do?) From my perspective, the Superfund list is a thriving example of an environmental advocacy-industrial complex. Huge profits are derived from Superfund cleanups.
The opinion that malaria cannot be conquered by use of DDT in Africa ignores the fact that some African countries are indeed conquering malaria by using DDT. Furthermore, there is no proof that DDT causes any meaningful public health harm there whatsoever.
About the author:
Donald R. Roberts, Ph.D.
Donald R. Roberts has had two careers. He completed a career as an Army medical entomologist in 1987 and then retired as an academician researcher from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in 2007.
Dr. Roberts received his doctoral degree in 1973 from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, Texas. For the next several years he conducted research on malaria and arbovirus vectors in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. Focal points of research were the epidemiology and dynamics of malaria transmission and methods of malaria control with special emphasis on how DDT functioned to control indoor malaria transmission.
In 1980 he became the Chief, Department of Entomology, at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in Washington, D.C. While at WRAIR he directed pioneering research that produced an assay for detecting malaria parasites in mosquitoes.
In 1984 Dr. Roberts moved to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, MD, where he served as a uniformed member of the faculty until his retirement from the Army at the end of 1987.
In 1988, he continued as a civilian member of the faculty at USUHS up to his retirement as Professor of Tropical Public Health in June 2007.
During his years as an academician, he specialized in research on applications of remote sensing and GIS technologies to the study of malaria and malaria epidemiology in Mexico, Belize and other countries. He created and directed a Center for applications of remote sensing and GIS to public health. In addition, he continued his studies on how DDT functions as a spatial repellent to keep mosquitoes from entering houses and transmitting disease. This research eventually became the topic of a major NIH grant to screen compounds as potential replacements for DDT in malaria control programs.
After retiring, Dr. Roberts was awarded U.S. Medicine’s Frank Brown Berry Prize (http://www.usmedicine.com/berrywinner.cfm), awarded for exceptional contributions to healthcare by a Federal healthcare professional.
In recent years he became intensely involved in advocacy for indoor residual spraying of DDT and other insecticides for malaria control. He campaigned to prevent a DDT ban through negotiations for the international persistent organic pollutants (POPs) treaty. DDT was not banned by the POPs agreement and is presently being used for control of malaria.
Dr. Roberts has published over 120 peer-reviewed papers. He has been called upon to give Senate testimony of disease control issues, is a board member of Africa Fighting Malaria and an advisor for the Innovative Vector Control Consortium.
He continues his work as an advocate for public health insecticides to include DDT for control of malaria and other important human disease and for increased investment of public funds to find a fully adequate replacement for DDT.