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Tuesday, June 21, 2016
CNS Columnist Wants (Ineffective) DDT To Be Legal Again To Combat Zika

Hans Bader rants in a June 10 column:

Zika’s spread is being aided by red tape the Obama administration left unchanged, even as it illegally diverted money needed to fight Zika to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

Writing in the New York Post, Jillian Kay Melchior of the Independent Women’s Forum notes that the federal government is thwarting a low-cost solution to Zika: DDT. That life-saving pesticide remains banned by federal regulations, preventing it from being used to kill mosquitos carrying this awful disease:


For years, the Obama administration has ignored advice like this to allow DDT, disregarding warnings that have grown louder and more frequent as Zika has spread. Indeed, Obama recently gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the former EPA administrator who relied on junk science to ban DDT. In a case of politics overruling science, that administrator “banned DDT after ignoring an EPA administrative law judge’s ruling that there was no evidence indicating that DDT posed any sort of threat to human health or the environment.” He “never attended any of the agency’s hearings on DDT. He didn’t read the hearing transcripts and refused to explain his decision,” notes Steven Milloy at Junk

Haber and Melchior are ignoring the fact that, as we've pointed out, most mosquitoes are immune to the effects of DDT due to past overuse, so re-legalizing the chemical to fight Zika would do little good.

Bader goes on to write: "Similarly, Melchior notes that the most famous advocate of banning DDT, Rachel Carson, falsely claimed that use of DDT was threatening the American robin with extinction – in the very same year in which noted ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson wrote that the robin was actually 'the most abundant bird in North America.'" Actually, as we've also pointed out, Carson never called for the banning of DDT or any other pesticide, just a stop to their overuse.

While Time magazine concedes Carson was wrong on the imminent extinction of robins, she was correct on the workings of the food chain that made DDT a threat to robins. DDT was sprayed on elm trees in the 1950s to try and kill a tree disease, but DDT residue remained on the leaves. When the leaves fell in autumn, earthworms ate the leaves, and robins would eat the worms the following spring. Because DDT persists in the environment unusually long after it is sprayed, DDT could build up to toxic levels in robins from eating earthworms. And there are documented cases of robins dying from DDT poisoning -- it's what inspired Carson to write her book.

Oh, and Bader pulled that Carson-robin anecdote from a pro-DDT article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (which also fails to mention that most mosquitoes are DDT-immune), published by the far-right Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. The journal is notorious for publishing an article falsely claiming that there has been an explosion of leprosy cases in the U.S.

Posted by Terry K. at 7:12 PM EDT

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