Jewish World Review
Oct. 12, 2000 / 13 Tishrei, 5761
Fight the anti-pesticide pests
THE WEST NILE VIRUS came to my neck of the woods last week, when four dead
crows turned up in southern Maryland and Washington, D.C. Am I scared? Yes,
the possible presence of infected mosquitoes in my lakeside neighborhood is
worrisome. But even more disturbing is the irrational fear-mongering of
environmentalists who oppose chemical spraying to kill the bugs.
An outfit called the Maryland Pesticide Network criticized my state's use of
permethrin - a common household insecticide -- to stop the disease from
taking hold. On its website, the group cites permethrin-related health
hazards including "synergistic effects on endocrine disruptions," reported
by Tulane University researchers in the journal Science. The study claimed
that combinations of pesticides disrupt human hormone systems up to 1,600
times more than individual pesticides alone.
Radical environmentalists wield the study to raise the specter of
pesticide-induced brain cancer, breast cancer, and thyroid damage. But the
Maryland Pesticide Network recklessly fails to mention that the Tulane
researchers were forced to issue a humiliating retraction of their work
because scientists from around the world could not replicate the results -
and neither could the Tulane team itself.
When their junk science ammunition runs out, the anti-pesticide troops turn
to melodramatic anecdotes of harm. "Many people are getting sick" from the
repeated spraying of permethrin-related products in New York this year,
Sandra Levin, a board member with the New York City Group of the Sierra
Club, told the Baltimore Sun. "Many?" The New York enviros publicized the
single case of a woman who "lost her voice for six weeks after being
sprayed." Was that caused by caustic poison - or by constant kvetching?
Staten Island resident Claire Felthem, the "victim," was quoted in several
news stories and was miraculously able to find her vocal cords in federal
court, where she testified in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the spraying.
Fortunately, the junk litigation didn't fly. U.S. District Court Judge John
Martin rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the unintended drift of
minuscule particles of the pesticide into the waters surrounding New York
City violated the federal Clean Water Act. Martin ruled that the claim
"stretches the language of the Clean Water Act beyond its reasonable
meaning." Indeed, the enviros' reasoning would lead to banning everything
from bubble bath and Drano to hairspray and Lysol.
This weekend, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader will gather
with junk scientists in New York to protest further spraying. This
anti-pesticide patrol claims to work for the most vulnerable members of
society. But it is children and the elderly who are most at risk of West
Nile-related illness that will spread if infected mosquitoes are not
controlled. The enviros callously dismiss West Nile symptoms as "mild."
Tell that to the seven people who died and the 62 people who became
seriously ill last year as a result of encephalitis, meningitis, and other
central nervous system ailments caused by West Nile infections. Tell that
to the 17 people who contracted similar illnesses this year, and to the
family of the 82-year-old Hackensack, N.J., man who became this year's first
West Nile casualty just four weeks ago.
Some glib opponents of West Nile spraying advise people to lock themselves
indoors and drain their pools (they are silent, of course, on one of the
most aggravating sources of standing water: government-created wetlands.)
Other environmentalists say they favor "safe and affordable" alternatives to
the chemicals being sprayed. The claim is disingenuous at best, deadly at
worst. The pesticides used to combat West Nile virus are all
federally-approved chemicals that meet safety standards set by the
Environmental Protection Agency at levels up to 1,000 times safer than the
level at which the EPA finds the pesticide has no adverse effect.
Moreover, these chemicals are among the very alternatives advocated by
environmentalists who succeeded in banning previous generations of
insecticides, such as DDT. Now, as West Nile virus spreads across the
country, threatening both people and wildlife, the anti-pesticide activists
want to take away the few remaining weapons against mosquito-borne diseases.
The truth: Environmentalists won't be satisfied until we're back in
loincloths, stripped of modern technology, huddled in caves, armed only with
oxtail flyswatters and voo-doo chants to keep dangerous bugs
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate