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[cdn-nucl-l] Re: The Pesticide Myth
Jerry Cuttler posted and Jim Muckerheide and Steve Milloy wrote:
From: Jerry Cuttler [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, August 01, 2000 6:55 AM
Subject: [cdn-nucl-l] Fw: The Pesticide Myth
----- Original Message -----
From: Muckerheide <email@example.com>
To: Multiple recipients of list ans-pie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 01, 2000 7:38 AM
Subject: The Pesticide Myth
Steve Milloy started a new 'junkscience' column with FOX News on July 7.
The column below is a great example of making the case, bringing in the
credible historical context of specific people and evidence of government
perpetrating fraud, that kills people, in affiliation with activist
organizations, just as with the LNT.
The Pesticide Myth
Friday, July 28, 2000
By Steven Milloy FOXNews
What are the origins of pesticide hysteria? There are two watershed events:
the publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring in 1962, and the
banning of DDT by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1972. Silent
Spring scared the public about pesticides and rallied anti-chemical
activists. The ban validated public fear.
Carson said that DDT harmed bird reproduction and that DDT caused cancer.
Ominous chapter titles included "Elixirs of Death," "And No Birds Sing," and
"The Human Price." But Carson misrepresented the existing science on bird
reproduction and was wrong about DDT causing cancer.
She 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's 1956 article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry
actually yielded a very different conclusion. DeWitt reported no significant
difference in egg hatching between birds fed DDT and birds not fed DDT.
Carson also omitted mention of DeWitt's report that DDT-fed pheasants
hatched about 50 percent more eggs than "control" pheasants.
As for DDT causing cancer in humans, study after study reports no
association between DDT exposure and cancer rates.
But as wrong as Carson was, the EPA's conduct was worse.
Anti-DDT activism led to hearings before an EPA administrative law judge in
1971. After seven months and 9,000 pages of testimony from all sides of the
DDT controversy, Judge Edmund Sweeney, concluded that "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
Despite the exculpatory ruling, then-EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus
banned DDT anyway.
Ruckelshaus never attended the hearings, did not read the transcript and
refused to release the materials used to make his decision. He even rebuffed
a U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to obtain those materials through
the Freedom of Information Act, claiming they were just "internal memos."
It gets worse.
Ruckelshaus was biased against DDT. He was a member of the activist group,
the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on
personal stationery that read, "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."
But as an assistant attorney general a year earlier, Ruckelshaus stated in a
federal court that "DDT has an amazing, an exemplary record of safe use,
does not cause a toxic response in man or other animals, and is not harmful.
Carcinogenic claims regarding DDT are unproven speculation."
In a May 2, 1971 address to the Audubon Society < the parent organization of
the EDF < Ruckelshaus said, "As a member of the Society, myself, I was
highly suspicious of this compound, to put it mildly. But I was compelled by
the facts to temper my emotions... because the best scientific evidence
available did not warrant such a precipitate action."
Another telling part of the DDT saga was unveiled during a lawsuit by
scientists claiming the Audubon Society and the New York Times defamed them
as "paid liars" about DDT. Depositions revealed that EDF and Audubon Society
leaders plotted to silence and discredit scientists who defended DDT. The
scientists won a jury verdict.
Still, the DDT myth < and pesticide hysteria < persists. Some fault lies
with the chemical industry's tendency to reformulate and move on rather than
fight for the facts.
Not everyone believes the DDT myth. U.S. government malaria experts wrote
recently in the journal Emerging and Infectious Diseases, "Today, DDT is
still needed for malaria control. If the pressure to abandon this effective
insecticide continues,... millions of additional malaria cases worldwide
[will result]... We are now facing the unprecedented event of eliminating,
without meaningful debate, the most cost-effective chemical we have for the
prevention of malaria. The health of hundreds of millions of persons in
malaria-endemic countries should be given greater consideration before
proceeding further with the present course of action."
New Yorkers should also engage in "meaningful debate" about pesticides.
Proper pesticide use is a powerful tool in our public health arsenal < not
something to be feared, especially on the basis of junk science.
< Steven Milloy is a biostatistician, lawyer, adjunct scholar at the Cato
Institute and publisher of Junkscience.com.
Jim Dukelow responds:
I disagree with much of what Milloy writes about the history of the banning of
On the other hand, I agree with the position of many health professionals
involved with treatment and prevention of malaria and other diseases with insect
vectors, that carefully controlled use of DDT to control mosquitos, etc. should
remain an option, particularly for the poorer nations of the world.
Now, the disagreements. For the last few years there has been a drumbeat on the
right aimed at discrediting Rachel Carson and the political and scientific
process that led to the effective banning of DDT in the U.S. in 1972. Milloy
repeats many of these arguments, although they have been refuted elsewhere. He
does this secure in the knowledge that it is a lot of work to dig the true
history of the period from the writing of Silent Spring to the banning of DDT
out of the library. Parenthetically, the Internet is not much help for this
sort of research. It is a wonderful resource for things that happened yesterday
(that is, during -- say -- the last 20 years), but not so good the further back
you go. What follows is the result of a fair amount of research I did a couple
of years ago on this issue.
From: Dukelow, James S Jr
Sent: Friday, August 27, 1999 10:58 AM
Subject: Junk History
Yesterday's (26 Aug 99) Wall Street Journal has an op-ed article by
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of American Council on Science and
Health. It remembers recently-deceased Michael Sveda, the discoverer of
cyclamates, artifical sweeteners that have been banned in the U.S. since
around 1970 as "possible" human carcinogens.
I have no particular problem with her characterization of the cyclamate
controversy. However, her article also contains the paragraph:
Sveda also worked on DDT, which when introduced during World War II
became the single most important pesticide responsible for
maintaining health and garnered its inventor, Paul Muller, a Nobel
Prize in Medicine. In 1970, the National Academy of Sciences
declared that "in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented
500 million human deaths due to malaria." But this cause for
celebration was forgotten when another 1969 study for tumors in mice
fed DDT. Soon environmentalists lobbied for DDT's ban. And in
1972, ignoring advice from experts, Environmental Protection Agency
administrator William Ruckelshaus banned it for virtually all uses.
There is very little in this paragraph that is correct. Paul Muller did
win the Nobel Prize, but for discovering that DDT, which had been
synthesized in the 19th century, had insecticidal activity.
The NAS may have said "500 million human deaths" prevented in two
decades, but the assertion is absurd on its face. Estimates of annual
malaria mortality run from 1 to 3 million people per year. Even
assuming that DDT had cut malaria deaths to zero (which never came close
to happening), it would take 160 to 500 years for it to have prevented
500 million deaths.
<Note>: Milloy continues to feature this NAS report datum on his well-named
Junk Science web page, even though I pointed out its absurdity to him about a
year ago. I find it hard to believe he would support the position that if it
appears in an NAS report, it must be right. <End of Note>
The mouse tumors were a relatively minor component in the decision to
ban DDT. Much more important was the extensive evidence of the
persistence of DDT in the environment, its tendency to bioaccumulate
both in fatty tissue in the body and in species at the top of the food
chain, and its impact on non-target species.
Environmental lobbying for the banning of DDT had begun shortly after
the publication of Silent Spring in 1962, not after the 1969 mouse
William Ruckelshaus did not ignore the advice of "experts" when he
overruled the decision of Edmund Sweeney, the hearing examiner for a 7-
month long hearing on the merits of EPA's 1970 announcement that it was
planning to ban most uses of DDT. The hearing was held as part of the
appeal process granted to DDT manufacturers by the governing law.
Sweeney was not an "expert" on the scientific issues, he was a Civil
Service Commission attorney. According to contemporary reports
(Science, v. 174, pp. 1108-1110), Sweeney's conduct of the hearing was
neither judicial nor impartial.
More to the point, the same issues had been reviewed by 5 blue ribbon
commissions that did consist of scientists (industrial, academic, and
government) and other interested parties. All five commissions
recommended phasing out DDT as quickly as possible (see the Science
article cited above and the news article in Nature, v. 237, pp. 422-23).
Three court decisions in the same time frame reached the same
Some of the recommendations of the Mrak Commission, convened by the
first EPA administrator, Robert Finch, will give you the flavor of
scientific consensus at the time.
From the Commission's report (Report of the Secretary's Commission on
Pesticides and their Relationship to Environmental Health, US Dept. of
HEW, December 1969):
Recommendation 3: Eliminate within two years all uses of DDT and DDD in
the United States excepting those uses essential to the preservation of
human health or welfare and approved unanimously by the Secretaries of
the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare, Agriculture, and
Recommendation 4: Restrict the usage of certain persistent pesticides
in the United States to specific essential uses which create no known
hazard to human health or to the quality of the environment and
approved unanimously by ...[as above] ...
Recommendation 7: Develop suitable standard for pesticide content in
food, water, and air and other aspects of environmental quality, that:
(1) protect the public from undue hazards, and (2) recognize the need
for optimal human nutrition and food supply.
Recommendation 8: Seek modification of the Delaney clause to permit the
Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to
determine when evidence of carcinogenesis justifies restrictive action
concerning food containing analytically detectable traces of chemicals
The other 9 recommendations are governmental process recommendations.
The Commission chairman Mrak, it might be noted, was a supporter of
Finally, the current DDT disinformation campaign frequently implies that
the banning of DDT is responsible for a resurgence in malaria. I
encourage anyone wondering about that issue to read The Malaria Capers,
by the parasitologist Robert Desowitz (WW Norton, 1991). Among other
things, he describes the World Health Organization campaign to eradicate
malaria. It began in 1955, spent between $US 1 billion and $US 2
billion, and was changed to a "control" program in 1967, well before the
banning of DDT. In 1972, the year of the partial ban on DDT by USEPA,
the Malaria Eradication Program was formally declared dead. Among the
problems with the campaign were that the insect vectors of malaria were
developing behavioral and physiological resistance to the insecticidal
effects of DDT and the parasites were developing resistance to the
prophylactic and therapeutic drugs.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
These comments are mine and have not been reviewed and/or approved by my
management or by the U.S. Department of Energy.