What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 20, 2010

Oy! AGAIN With The Bedbugs and DDT!

In an editorial/commercial for a new documentary, Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's editorial board takes yet another unscientific swing at environmentalism and in the process gets many many things plain wrong. The braintrust begins the projection:
A new documentary, "3 Billion and Counting," sets the record straight on DDT, malaria, bald eagles -- and America's current bedbug plague.

The title refers to all the human lives ended by malaria, which annually kills 1.5 million and debilitates millions more -- needlessly, because banned DDT eradicates malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Producer and physician Rutledge Taylor's film connects the underlying dots of environmental fanaticism, misguided policies and disregard for science.
We've already address the bedbugs here. But if you're in a hurry and don't have the time to sift through a Jack Kelly Sunday column, here's the upshot - DDT is ineffective against bedbugs. Has been for a few decades. Since before DDT was banned, in fact. From Newsweek (again):
[L]ong before the United States banned most uses of it in 1972, DDT had lost its effectiveness against bedbugs—which, like many fast-breeding insects, are extremely adept at evolving resistance to pesticides. “Bloggers talk about bringing back DDT,” says Bob Rosenberg, director of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, “but we had stopped using it even before 1972.”

Nor is there any reason to think it would work better today; according to Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist at Cornell, among a wide variety of pesticides tested against bedbugs within the last two years, DDT performed the worst.
But let's move on to malaria as that's the largest concern of the editorial. The braintrust writes:
The title refers to all the human lives ended by malaria, which annually kills 1.5 million and debilitates millions more -- needlessly, because banned DDT eradicates malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Actually they get it right.

Inadvertantly and ironically, of course.

Look at that last line: banned DDT eradicates malaria-carrying mosquitoes. That's absolutely correct. Why do I write this? Because according to this report from the much-despised (by the Trib) UN (World Health Organization, actually), DDT is being used to eradicate malarlia-carrying mosquitoes:
[Indoor Residual Spraying] with WHO-approved chemicals (including DDT) remains one of the main interventions for reducing and interrupting malaria transmission by vector control in all epidemiological settings. In 2008, 44 countries, including 19 in the African Region, reported implementing IRS. (page ix)
DDT has comparatively long residual efficacy (≥ 6 months) against malaria vectors and plays an important role in the management of vector resistance. Countries can use DDT for IRS for as long as necessary and in the quantities needed, provided that the guidelines and recommendations of WHO and the Stockholm Convention are met and until locally appropriate, cost-effective alternatives are available for a sustainable transition from DDT. (page 4)
Indeed, the title of this WHO Document is:
And section 2 of that document is titled:
Why is DDT still recommended?
Still recommended??? But the braintrust said Ruckelshaus buckled under environmental fanaticism and banned DDT and that led to 3 billion deaths by malaria!

I guess the Scaife's braintrust gets yet another one wrong.


EdHeath said...

Two puzzling things here.

First, what does the US ban have to do with the rest of the world? I mean, ok, if we are buying DDT for poorer nations, but I thought Republicans were opposed to foreign aid.

Second, we are funding DDT use now. Maybe we weren't under Bush and the Republican Congress, but we are now.

TERI said...

DDT does work on bedbugs! Why don't you try it? It is far, far less toxic than the stuff exterminators are spraying in your home today! In the seventies, it was reported on the national news that hundreds of farm workers had DIED due to using the NEW substitutes for DDT. It further said and I quote, "they died because they had been used to handling DDT, a less toxic chemical."
DDT is not "toxic" to humans AT ALL. Nor birds, nor does it "thin" egg shells. This is all myth. There has been NOT ONE documented death due to DDT use, unless it is a bedbug, a mosquito, a flea, a tick, or a gnat.

Ed Darrell said...

DDT doesn't work on most bedbugs. Research shows most populations are astoundingly immune to the stuff; those that are still affected generally take about 30 hours of exposure before it gets to them.

DDT is not strongly acutely toxic to humans, but it is still acutely toxic. More critically, it mimics estrogen, and it shrinks the testes of men, and gives them swollen mammaries, and it causes premature menses in little girls. Recent research indicates it gives breast and reproductive organ cancers to the children of women who are exposed to it.

According to Discover Magazine, since Rachel Carson's death more than 1,200 different studies have confirmed that DDT kills bird chicks and thins the eggshells of wild birds. Myth? 1,200 studies?

Trudy S said...

Ed Darrell has posted other places about DDT and he simply LOVES to nay-say... His ego rests on being "right"... How about a NEW inquiry into the effects of DDT on bedbugs? I suspect there would be success. Would you rather argue or test it? And where is this touted research that shows these hormonal changes and cancer threats from DDT?... That's a bunch of hogwash. Why don't you stay off these blogs with your lies? There are NOT any 1200 studies that prove egg shell thinning. YOU are a FRAUD!

James said...

Although DDT killed only 25% of bed bugs, I think it would be a good idea to use it! Bedbugs cause so many problems: phobias, anxiety, fears and psychological problems in addition to biting and sometimes cause serious skin problems. America should be free of bedbugs!

OneLightHouse said...

Ed Darrell commented on DDT causing cancer. How about an alternative take on this? The following is an extract from Donald R. Roberts' paper ( Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences) published here http://www.researchinformation.co.uk/pest/prlinks/S2-2101.pdf:

"Mary Wolff and co-authors (1993) published a paper, that was widely covered in the popular press, in which they claimed a statistically significant association of DDE (a major DDT metabolite) with breast cancer. Years later, with completion of many other studies, researchers concluded DDE was not a cause of breast cancer. Yet, for many years, anti-DDT activists heralded the 1993 paper as ultimate proof of DDT harm and used it to generate funds and recruit new members to campaigns for DDT elimination (World Wildlife Fund, 1998).
In the history of efforts to preserve use of DDT for public health programs, this chain of events has been repeated over and over, with claims of causation eventually being disproven, but not before they were used to generate funds and recruit new members to anti-insecticide campaigns".