Jewish World Review April 24 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761
I was joking, of course, given that DDT is the pesticide that has virtually become a name for every worst nightmare environmentalists can conjure up. Once widely used around the world, many western governments including the U.S. banned the chemical in the 1970s, thanks largely to claims made in the 1962 enviro-horror-thriller book "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson.
But the outrage is not, and never was, the DDT. Instead it's the Western environmental extremists and the fact that their efforts to virtually rid the world of the life-saving substance has doomed tens of millions of people to needlessly perish, most of them children and pregnant women, from the mosquito-borne illness malaria.
As many as 3 million people a year die from the disease (and millions more are sickened), a huge and growing epidemic in the Third World, because the cheapest and most potent weapon against it, DDT, has been dramatically restricted. The only reason is the unfounded hysteria of environmentalists.
As Amir Attaran of Harvard University's Center for International Development points out, "The scientific literature does not contain even one peer-reviewed, independently replicated study linking DDT exposures to any adverse health outcome" in humans.
Roger Bate and Kendra Okonski of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., recently wrote in a new study, "When Politics Kill: Malaria and the DDT Story" that, at worst, DDT may have caused some environmental harm when it was widely used in farming in the 1950s and '60s. That harm, shown to be reversible, included such things as producing thinner egg shells in certain birds. Bate and Okonski demonstrate that "spraying (small-to-minuscule amounts) of DDT in houses and on mosquito breeding grounds was the primary reason that rates of malaria around the world declined dramatically after the Second World War."
In some countries, the disease almost disappeared. For example, there were 2.8 million malaria cases in 1948 in Sri Lanka, but thanks to DDT there were only 17 in 1963. And all this without any ill effects shown to humans.
But today following years of environmentalists' work scaring the world into thinking DDT is the plague in a can and their successful efforts to make it commercially unavailable, politically untouchable, or outright illegal, there are some 300 million malaria cases worldwide, most in sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa alone, cases of malaria have shot up by 1000 percent in only five years.
In contrast, the few countries that continue to use DDT, like Ecuador, have continued to contain or reduce their number of malaria cases. But apparently all this is meaningless to the environmental extremists responsible for this human carnage. The Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, an international treaty which seeks a worldwide ban on DDT and several other chemicals, is expected to be signed by delegates from more than 100 nations including the U.S. in Stockholm, Sweden next month. Fifteen countries have requested exemptions for DDT use for mosquito control, but even if granted they would have to conform with such onerous and restrictive regulations that it would render their DDT use far more expensive and less effective than necessary.
That's why the Malaria Foundation International recently circulated an open letter signed by some 600 leading malariologists and other scientists declaring that "setting a firm deadline to ban DDT places an unethical burden on the world's poorest countries." (True, there are some other insecticides that could be used, but they are far more expensive, often prohibitively so, and they are typically less effective and require more frequent use than DDT.)
No, I'm not going use DDT to control annoying lawn gnats. But in the Third World, bugs like mosquitoes don't just irritate kids, they kill them en masse. Where is the outrage? When will the do-gooders in the West be held responsible for their deadly efforts to end the use of a safe, effective, inexpensive chemical against these pests, efforts that are costing millions of lives a year? Of course this is just another example of Western environmentalist groups and governments working to impose their expensive, environmentally fashionable agendas on a poverty-stricken developing world. Often with disastrous, even deadly consequences.
The evidence suggests that such environmentalists may love the
world, but they sure don't like people very