The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, July 22, 2005

Perpetuating the 'Silent Spring' Myth 

This article on MSNBC caught my eye... talking about a recent study of new mothers in China, and how they have DDT in their breast milk:

High levels of DDT were found in the breastmilk of new mothers in Hong Kong even though the pesticide has long been banned in many places, including Hong Kong and China, a scientist said on Friday.
DDT was banned in 1972 in the United States after it caused reproductive damage to birds such as the brown pelican and bald eagle, but it can remain in the environment for a long time. It also has been shown to increase the growth of breast cancer cells.
But for DDT to turn up in China and Hong Kong was surprising because the pesticide has been banned in the region since 1983.

"This is possibly due to the fact that there may be some illegal use of DDT in China..." the scientists said in the paper, published this month in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

What is sad about the whole DDT issue is that it is a myth. One can find excellent coverage of the fallacies of Silent Spring, and the subsequent decision by the EPA to ban the chemical here. Especially when looking at the "thinning egg shells"... this could never be reproduced in laboratories. Also, no studies have been able to actually show a link between DDT and cancer. It's just "suspected".

So why not err on the safe side? The largest problem with our banning it (as well as other countries following suit) is that we've pressured many countries in the world to do the same thing when they desperately need this pesticide. It is still the least expensive, and most effective killer of mosquitoes around, and in countries like Africa, Malaria (which is spread by mosquitoes) is a worse killer than AIDS. More on those consequences here. The use of junk science, and the perpetuating of the myths around this pesticide is dooming an entire continent to death and disease. China, though becoming more industrialized still has malaria issues... and I suspect that some smart Chinese people have discovered that it's well worth the risk of thinning egg shells to keep Malaria at bay.


There are lots of errors in this post. DDT has never been banned in antimalarial use, and bans on its agricultural use have helped to slow the development of resistance. You might want to check

  Posted at August 03, 2005 3:14 AM by Anonymous Anonymous  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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