The Politics Behind Pesticides and the West Nile Virus

Washington, D.C.,  April 19, 2004—In a new study published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, author Angela Logomasini exposes how environmental activists are opposing vital efforts to combat the deadly West Nile virus. Since the summer of 1999, groups around the country have been attempting to halt the use of pesticides against the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile.

“Anti-pesticide campaigns and subsequent government regulations are adversely impacting the ability to control emerging diseases,” said Logomasini, Director of Risk and Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Activists’ extreme views are coupled with alarmist rhetoric that is designed to scare public officials and others into opposing any chemical use even when such use could save lives.”  

The study, “Pesticides and the West Nile Virus: An Examination of Environmentalist Claims,” also illustrates the parallel between current opposition to pesticide spraying to counter West Nile and the calamitous results of banning the use of DDT for disease control in developing nations. Though no longer used agriculturally, DDT remains the most affordable and effective way to battle another mosquito-borne killer, malaria. The global movement to discourage and ban even the anti-malaria uses of DDT have cost millions of lives in poor nations that have been forced to adopt less effective and less affordable treatment alternatives.

“What we’re seeing now in the U.S. has been echoed all over the world, often to devastating effect,” said Logomasini. “Too often, activists have exaggerated speculative, marginal risks to human health and the environment while ignoring the well documented life and death consequences of diseases that chemicals could help control.”

The full text of the study, as well as additional material on pesticides and public health, is available online here.