Twenty-nine years after the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1972 ban of the pesticide DDT, the case against DDT is finally coming unraveled. There was extensive scientific literature available at the time, which demonstrated DDT’s overwhelming benefits. In short, the ban was not supported by the scientific information available at that time. The consequences of the DDT ban have been horrific. The ban has taken its rightful place among the world’s worst environmentalist actions ever made.
As president-elect Bush selects his cabinet and advisors, his new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman must become knowledgeable of the dubious, unscientific history of the agency. Historically, the EPA has been very harmful to a lot of people.
The Costs of the Ban
The human and economic costs of the DDT ban have been staggering. The United States should rethink its science and environmental policies and put human health first. It should end its chronic deference to harmful agendas of elitist Greens.
In December 2000, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) met in Johannesburg, South Africa, to implement a global ban of 12 chemicals the UNEP regarded as harmful. These chemicals, called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) included organo-chlorides such as DDT. UNEP proposed that these chemicals be banned because of their alleged harm. The case for harm hinges upon allegations of persistence, various cancers and reproductive problems. When one examines the specific POP data, cause-and-effect relationships and scientific plausibility, the allegations become very fuzzy.
Thanks to the continuing efforts of a few individuals and organizations, such as Roger Bate, M.D., head of the South African non-government organization Africa Fighting Malaria, and Amir Attaran, M.D., head of the Malaria Project, DDT received a restricted exemption from the UNEP ban.
Johannesburg provided a sobering setting for the UNEP meeting since malaria has increased in South Africa since the 1996 DDT ban. Malaria has returned with a vengeance in South Africa and Mozambique, and in Asian countries. There were 163 malaria deaths in South Africa in 1996 while the total (fatal and non-fatal) cases of malaria there rose to 28,000 in 1999. Globally, the annual malaria death toll is more than 2 million per year, plus hundreds of millions more non-fatal afflictions. Such have been the human costs of the EPA 1972 DDT ban.
The total human costs of the DDT ban have been even higher since foreign companies are reluctant to expand companies into African states, exposing highly trained workforces to these hazardous diseases. This has kept much of the African subcontinent in grinding poverty, while much of the world increases in productivity and prosperity. Further, chemical substitutes for DDT such as Larvex-100 have been invariably more costly and less effective.
DDT remains the premier insecticide effective against the anopheles mosquito, which is the known carrier of the organism that causes malaria.
DDT is also effective against several potentially fatal insect-borne diseases such as typhus, plague, yellow fever and sleeping sickness. These are carried by a variety of flies, aphids, lice, and mosquitoes, among others.
The controversy surrounding the DDT ban featured so called “junk science” in many areas. The controversy, the flood of bad science, the subsequent DDT ban and the deaths of hundreds of millions that followed should serve as a warning to all policy makers, especially those in the new administration. The ban demonstrates the harm of poorly reasoned health and science policies. Junk science will never protect the environment or people.
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