DDT, malaria, India, and Julian Simon (was Re: Antienviromentalist data)

From: Mitchell Porter (mitchtemporarily@hotmail.com)
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 23:27:24 MST

Eliezer quoted Julian Simon, from

>1945: DDT, sensationalized by Rachel Carson in 1962. Said to cause
>hepatitis. Discontinued in U.S. in 1972. Known then to be safe to humans
>(caused death only if eaten like pancakes). Some damage to wildlife under
>special conditions. With the aid of DDT, "India had brought the number of
>malaria cases down from the estimated 75 million in 1951 to about 50,000 in
>1961. Sri Lanka...reduced malaria from about three million cases after
>World War II to just 29 in 1964". Then as the use of DDT went down,
>"Endemic malaria returned to India like the turnaround of a tide". By 1977
>"the number of cases reached at least 30 million and perhaps 50 million".
>In 1971, amidst the fight that led to the banning of DDT in 1972, the
>president of the National Academy of Science - distinguished biologist
>Philip Handler - said "DDT is the greatest chemical that has ever been
>discovered". Commission after commission, top expert after top Nobel
>prize-winning expert, has given DDT a clean bill of health.

Like most people, I suppose, I think of DDT as a dangerous
poison. The passage above asserts that it's safe for humans
and suggests that the post-Sixties resurgence of malaria has
something to do with the banning of DDT in the USA. A little
research shows that it had everything to do with the growth
in pesticide resistance, and nothing to do with pesticide

Reasons for the resurgence of malaria:

Pesticide resistance, growth of mosquito breeding grounds,
expansion of human settlement into malaria-friendly areas,
budget restraints. No reference to environmentalist scaremongering
as a factor.

DDT's use in India:

states that pesticide production in India peaked in the 1980s, and
DDT was banned there only in 1997, long after the resurgence quoted

DDT's effects on human health:

'Some of the recent scientific findings summarised in the report
provide evidence that DDT can damage the developing brain, causing
hypersensitivity, behavioural abnormalities and reduced nerve function.
  'It has also been shown to suppress the immune system, which causes
slower response to infections.'

>From _A growing problem: pesticides and the Third
World poor_ by David Bull (OXFAM, 1982), p30:

'In India malaria incidence was down to just 49,000
cases in 1961 (from 75 million or so in the early '50s)
but was back to over a million by 1971 and nearly 6.5
million by 1976...

'In the final years of the 1970s there has been
some recovery... In India, for example, malaria
incidence fell from its 1976 peak to 4.4 million
in 1977, 2.84 million in 1978 and 2.7 million in

After listing various inadequacies of health
infrastructure which contributed to the resurgence,
the author states:

'The most significant cause of the resurgence of
malaria, however, is the resistance built up by
the mosquitoes to the insecticides which have
been relied upon for malaria vector control.'

The number of pesticide-resistant species of
insects and mites known (p31):

1967: 119.
1975: 139.
1980: 171.

And consider the first edition of _The Ultimate Resource_
itself (Princeton University Press, 1981). The version on
the web, I assume, is that of the 1998 revised edition.
There is one reference to DDT in the index of the 1981
edition, and this is what it leads to:

'Because of DDT and other synthetic pesticides,
medical technologists thought for a time that
population density was no longer necessary to prevent
malaria. Malaria was considered beaten. But
throughout the world the disease has bounced back...
Due to the evolution of pesticide resistant strains
of carrier insects and the concomitant daage to the
insects' natural predators, pesticides soon lost
their effectiveness...
  'Once again the only sure weapon against malaria
may turn out to be increased population density.'
(p252-253, Chapter 18, 'Population Density Does Not
Damage Health, or Psychological and Social Well-Being')
  [Apparently population growth helps the fight
against malaria because (i) swamps and other mosquito
incubators get paved over, (ii) there are more people
to run the health infrastructure.]

Eliezer wrote

>Is Rachel Carson still alive? Let's have her tried at Nuremburg and hung.

and thereby fell for *someone's* spin-doctoring.
Whoever supplied Julian Simon with his facts surely
knew what they were doing.

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