John Tierney’s excellent article on Rachel Carson’s legacy published in yesterday’s New York Times is under attack on the comments section of Tierney’s blog. The responses show that Carson’s supporters are in a complete state of denial about her legacy and the impacts of discontinuing DDT use. They–and anyone else who doubts the adverse impacts of halting DDT use–that should check out WHO Malaria Director Kochi’s comments on the topic. Kochi made a plea to environmentalists last fall, asking them to “help save African babies” by advocating DDT use.
Also take a look at the www.RachelWasWrong.org, which is sponsored by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The site features photos of 50 Ugandan children (provided by the Congress of Racial Equality), all of whom lost their lives to malaria in 2005. These kids represented 10 percent of the population of a school for orphans in Kampala. The tragic loss at this one school is a small sample of the larger malaria tragedy. Ugandans should have the freedom to use DDT to control malaria without interference from misinformation campaigns and burdensome government regulations.
The critiques of Tierney’s piece offer little more than speculation about unverified public health risks and rationalizations about DDT bans. The suggestions that DDT is too dangerous for life-saving uses because it is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), for example, are silly. Coffee has the same classification! Moreover, the IARC monograph on DDT notes: “there is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of DDT.” And given the massive human exposures to DDT over decades, The Lancet has reported that the “record for human beings is extremely good.”
The very low risks of DDT must be weighed against its substantial and well-documented benefits for malaria control. For documentation, look at this page on CEI’s RachelWasWrong.org site. For a list of studies and other information on DDT see this page.