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February 21, 2005

More AEI-Quality Research

Tim Lambert finds some more AEI-quality research:

Deltoid : The Great DDT Hoax: Anti-environmentalist writers frequently claim that after DDT had all but eliminated malaria from Sri Lanka, environmentalist pressure forced Sri Lanka to ban DDT, leading to a resurgence of malaria:

Roger Bate in Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking writes:

Some developing countries imposed a complete ban on the pesticide, as Sri Lanka did in 1964, when officials believed the malaria problem was solved. By 1969 the number of cases had risen from the low of seventeen (when DDT was used) to over a half million.

Walter Williams in in Capitalism Magazine.... Ted Lapkin in Quadrant.... John Brignell.... Jim Norton....

The definitive history of malaria is Gordon Harrison’s Mosquitoes, Malaria and Man.... Harrison writes:

Sri Lanka went back to the spray guns, reducing malaria once more to 150,000 cases in 1972; but there the attack stalled. Anopheles culicifacies, completely susceptible to DDT when the spray stopped in 1964, was now found resistant presumably because of the use of DDT for crop protection in the interim. Within a couple of years, so many culicifacies survived that despite the spraying malaria spread in 1975 to more than 400,000 people. So in 1977 they switched to the more expensive malathion and were able to reduce the number of cases to about 50,000 by 1980. In 2004, the number was down to 3,000, without using DDT.

....The anti-environmentalist version of what happened is a hoax. That doesn’t mean that all the writers above were being deliberately misleading: they might be just repeating what another anti-environmentalist wrote and be unaware of the true story. AEI scholar Roger Bate, however, coauthored an entire book on DDT and Malaria which relies very heavily on Harrison’s history, citing him over twenty times. They conspicuously fail to mention that Sri Lanka resumed DDT spraying and that it failed because of resistance....

Posted by DeLong at February 21, 2005 08:50 AM


Any environmentalist would know that of the many problems with DDT use, resistance developed by insects was a signal problem. The purpose of ignoring resistance, as the purpose of Politicizing Science, was to discredit environmentalist concerns. There is no intent here to write of science, and the effect of the writing is destructive.

Posted by: anne at February 21, 2005 09:41 AM

AEI is to scholarship what "Talon News" is to journalism.

Posted by: Kuas at February 21, 2005 09:50 AM

Well, given AEI's fellow travelers (and true audience) it's very simple. If you don't "believe" in evolution, then there is no mechanism for insects to acquire resistance. Therefore the only people left to blame are those dastardly environmentalists who prevent you from saving all those poor brown people you care so much about from malaria. It's a three-fer. You pander to your base, get an atta boy from the chemical companies and you get to accuse environmentalists of racism.
Cool, huh?

Posted by: Jon Gallagher at February 21, 2005 09:56 AM

The discussion of malaria is most important in itself and opens broadly to health in developing countries. Malaria is a growing problem because strains of the infection are resistant to treatment with quinine, even when quinine is readily available then there is a severe problem. There has been sadly little research and development of diseases and drugs that are mostly confined to developing countries. This is especially so for tropical diseases. The period of the Vietnam War was the last time America had a pronounced interest in such research and development.

Posted by: anne at February 21, 2005 10:30 AM

AEI's purpose is not research. It's propaganda.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at February 21, 2005 10:34 AM


AIDS-Linked Death Data Stir Political Storm in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG - In an implicit but devastating account of the havoc AIDS is causing here, South Africa's government reported Friday that annual deaths increased 57 percent from 1997 to 2003, with common AIDS-related diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia fueling much of the rise.

The increase in mortality spanned all age groups, but was most pronounced among those between ages 15 and 49, where deaths more than doubled. Working-age adults are more sexually active than the rest of the population, and the opportunity for transmitting H.I.V. is greatest among members of this group.

The report, by the government agency Statistics South Africa, caused contention even before its release, which came more than a month after the originally scheduled date. Critics charged - and the agency denied - that the delay was because of political pressure from President Thabo Mbeki's government, which they say has long played down the dimensions of the AIDS crisis here.

Mr. Mbeki's office sharply rebuked the agency in 2001 after it reported that 4 in 10 deaths among working-age adults probably resulted from AIDS, saying that statisticians could not prove their conclusion.

The statistics agency has denied that its report was politically influenced. The report notes that both the total number of deaths and their causes are undoubtedly inaccurate, because death reporting is not consistent in rural areas, and medical expertise is uneven across the nation.

The report states that 499,000 of South Africa's roughly 44 million people died in 2002, up sharply from 318,000 in 1997. Much of that increase appears to result from H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Experts agree that there are at least five million H.I.V.-positive citizens here, the most of any country. Diagnosing AIDS as a cause of death can require advanced medical knowledge and equipment. Moreover, an unknown number of AIDS deaths go unreported because South African life insurance policies frequently do not cover AIDS-related deaths....

Posted by: anne at February 21, 2005 10:36 AM

AIDS is becoming in a sense a women's disease in Africa. In 1997, 40% of AIDS deaths in South Africa were women. In 2003, 57% of the deaths were women. The devastation is AIDS is subtle, for the disease does not run its course in a short while, but devastation it is.

Posted by: anne at February 21, 2005 10:44 AM

A few years back there was a flap about using DDT indoors for mosquito control in areas where it is still effective. That was resolved in favor of limited DDT use for malaria control. There is a big difference between using small amounts of DDT indoors where it repels mosquitoes from the inside of huts and using DDT at 2 pounds per acre in agriculture. DDT is no longer used in US agriculture because it has by in large been replaced with newer products that are more effective at far lower concentrations and have less impact on the environment. It was originally banned because its use in agriculture contaminated fish and other wildlife with significant negative economic consequences for commercial fishing especially in Lake Michigan. (as in Green Bay fish Packers).

Posted by: bakho at February 21, 2005 11:14 AM

Remember DDT persists and is fiercely destructive of the environment.

Posted by: anne at February 21, 2005 11:28 AM

Sri Lanka isn't the only country with malaria in the world. There are many other countries (mostly in Africa) where DDT would be, by far, the most cost-effective insecticide, but international donor organizations refuse to fund it.

[So it is OK to write fake things about Sri Lanka because they are true in Mozambique? I don't get that.]

Posted by: tc at February 21, 2005 11:47 AM

This is an area that should be left to the scientific experts on malaria control. DDT should not be used in agriculture because of its persistence in the environment and because it leads to insecticide resistance, especially among malaria vectors. However, DDT can be used indoors with minimal to no effects on the environment and on balance be used to minimize the negative impacts on human health. However, DDT is not a cure all for all malaria and certainly not a good idea for pest control in agriculture. That is why it should be up to experts that can determine when DDT use could be effective in malaria control. A one size fits all solution will not do when a detailed cost benefit analysis is needed.

Posted by: bakho at February 21, 2005 12:42 PM

Which is precisely the point Rachel Carson made about mosquitos and fire ants in The Silent Spring, published in 1962. Mosquito resistance to chlorinated hydrocarbons was well known and widely recognized by the mid-seventies. As an undergraduate I remember reading a Far Eastern Economic Review article which reported that Asian public health officials were just waiting for the perfect storm -- a DDT resistant mosquito carrying a chloriquine and fansidar resistant strain of malaria.

Posted by: kaleidescope at February 21, 2005 02:12 PM

"In 2004, the number was down to 3,000, without using DDT."

Would be interesting to know how this was accomplished- cultural methods, synthetic pyrethroids, BTI, methoprene, or some other more effective insecticide?

Posted by: cloquet at February 21, 2005 04:02 PM

DDT is still an endocrine disruptor and will kill the users, cause reproductive harm, and deform their children. And as it bioaccumulates no one will be able to distinguish between sources-food? direct spraying? water? More pure brilliance from the black is white right.

Posted by: bigfoot at February 21, 2005 04:46 PM

Actually, there is no evidence for DDT as an endocrine disruptor in humans and certainly, the number of deaths from DDT use are pretty close to zero. Unlike malathion or parathion that are linked to thousands of deaths, DDT is not all that toxic. Before, we had major qualms about studying pesticides and other chemicals on human prisoners, DDT was studied extensively in humans.

The problem with DDT is its persistence in the environment and its bioaccumulation. As long as it has a very very limited use indoors in mosquito control, the effect of its use on the environment will be negligible. Given a choice between DDT exposure and malaria, I would opt for the DDT exposure. Malaria is still the #1 killer world wide.

However, while there may be very limited circumstances where DDT in a limited use would make sense, in no way would I support the use of massive quantities of DDT for other purposes or any use beyond the very strictly limited treatment of the insides of some huts in malaria infested areas. That would be counterproductive to malaria control and bad for the environment.

When DDT was legally used in agriculture, it is estimated that an average of 0.1 pound of DDT was applied for every acre of land on earth. DDT use (where needed) for malaria control would be many many many orders of magnitude lower than that. Dose matters.

Posted by: bakho at February 22, 2005 11:48 AM

IIRC, DDT interferes with the action of prostoglandin, which is a relevant hormone in human reporduction. So it really doesn't matter if nobody's done a wide-ranging study to see exactly what happens with it -- it's pretty much guaranteed to have SOME effect.

Posted by: Auros at February 22, 2005 03:57 PM

Auros, its unlikely DDT has major direct effects on mammalians in normal dosages - as bakho says, it was very thoroughly studied (precisely because of its popularity). The doses large parts of the population were exposed to in its heyday were truly massive compared with what people can get from indoor anti-malaria spraying - if there had been serious problems here they would have been obvious.

Pretty well all organic compounds, natural and otherwise, can have "SOME effects" on human health in enough quantity, so your line here is a non-argument. BTW, the lethal dose in mammals of DDT is considerably higher than that for aspirin.

As someone interested in the debate at the time of DDT's banning (I was a biochemistry student) I think the environmental harm, though real, was also overhyped. Not that I'm advocating a return to the pesticide habits of the 1950s, but DDT wasn't the worst offender then from the viewpoint of either human health or the environment (arsenic herbicides were arguably much worse for both).

Posted by: derrida derider at February 22, 2005 05:20 PM

[comment spam]

Posted by: at February 25, 2005 09:44 PM