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May 31, 2007


I'd wondered for some time where this story came from, too, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that it could have come from Big Tobacco. That's some old-fashioned cartoon-villain mustache-twirling tying-women-to-train-tracks evil right there.

And, I should add, thanks for posting this, Hilzoy.

I've followed Lambert's coverage for a while and it's not good for my blood pressure. I hope that the widespread acceptance of this canard in some slices of society just reflects impedance to information flow.

Aw geez. I'd like to personally apologize on behalf of my evil clients. I'm not working for them at the moment, though.

I don't know that I'd accepted this as fact, but it's stood (relatively) unchallenged for long enough that I was beginning to think of it as the factual equivalent of a planet.

So much for that. I'll have to spend some time reading more about this tonight.

I can’t spend the time now to dig up links so I will pass. It is a meme on my side (that I believe) that banning DDT killed millions, and that the environmental movement has the blood of those babies on their hands.

I’ll try to read your links when I can and re-evaluate, but I think you have an uphill climb here.

And piece by shattered piece the Enlightment rolls back...

OCSteve: if you're going to slog through the links, I'd suggest ignoring the tobacco funding links for now (figuring out whether the DDT story is true seems more important.) Probably, a good place to start would be with the question: was DDT banned? If so, where? I believe the answer to this is: in developed countries in which malaria had already been eradicated. I know it was banned in the US, and that it was not banned worldwide. I'll see if I can scare up some sort of international list, though.

Note that I find Lambert very good, but he's not very warm.

As a Junk Science corollary, let's all discuss how Fred Thompson doesn't understand (or understands but actively lies about) planetary distances, the size of the solar system, or the inverse square law.

Here are some key paragraphs from Lambert's blog. Emphasis mine.

The answer is that many lives have been saved because of Rachel Carson and it's scandalous the way Reynolds and Karlgard mislead their readers.

Because of Carson, the agricultural use of DDT was banned, but not the anti-malarial use of DDT and it has continued to be used to this day. You can buy it from Yorkool Chemical:

In the past several years, we supplied DDT 75% WDP to Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand, Myanmar for Malaria Control project, and won a good reputation from WHO and relevant countries' government.

And banning the agricultural use of DDT saved lives by slowing the development of resistance. Furthermore this is exactly the case Carson made in Silent Spring, warning that overuse would destroy the effectiveness of insecticides[:]

Looks like OCSteve's articles of faith ("memes") are in for a wild ride.

I would encourage everyone to check out Tim Lambert's very comprehensive set of links and arguments on the DDT conspiracy theory. Wikipedia's article is quite good too.

In particular, note that Rachel Carson is entirely blameless, since she explicitly favored reserving DDT exclusively for public health use.

Some of her followers got a little overzealous, and apparently at one time WWF and Greenpeace supported a complete ban on DDT. Eventually they backed down completely, in the face of opposition from the legitimate public health and malaria control community.

I personally have no problem with their actions. They're advocacy organizations, they represent animals and the earth. If the NRA and ACLU are allowed to be absolutist, why is suddenly unacceptable for environmental groups? Keeping in mind that NRA absolutism is lethal, or at least potentially lethal, in its effects.

In the end, the right-wing DDT conspiracy theory boils down to "Greenpeace took a stance which might have led to some people dying of malaria, but then they reversed it." Thrilling. Get Crichton on the phone for this one.

"As a Junk Science corollary, let's all discuss how Fred Thompson doesn't understand (or understands but actively lies about) planetary distances, the size of the solar system, or the inverse square law."

That's a pretty weird little spiel; I'm not even clear what he's trying to say: that the reason for planetary, including global, warming, is the sun (wow, no one ever realized that!), and that therefore... what?

Maybe Thompson thinks people are unclear on the whole Sun-is-hot thing?

I'm almost sure I recall reading this claim about DDT, Rachel Carson, and malaria when I was a teenager--it was in some book I'd checked out, though I don't remember the name of the book. I'd sort of internalized it as true until I started reading Lambert's blog.
I'd actually forgotten about it until then, not knowing it was a currently fashionable rightwing claim.

I don't fully understand the snark with regard to Pluto; this story seems to suggest that nearness to the sun might be the driving factor in Pluto's warming.

"...this story seems to suggest that nearness to the sun might be the driving factor in Pluto's warming."

In the sense that it's about how Pluto seems to be getting warmer as it moves further away from the sun, yes. Your phrasing is rather idiosyncratic, though, insofar as you seem to be suggesting the opposite.

In what is largely a reversal of an August announcement, astronomers today said Pluto is undergoing global warming in its thin atmosphere even as it moves farther from the Sun on its long, odd-shaped orbit.
That story is five years old, though.

Perhaps relevant to Thompson is the debunking of 28 Climate Myths; this one is one Mars and Pluto warming:

There have been claims that warming on Mars and Pluto are proof that the recent warming on Earth is caused by an increase in solar activity, and not by greenhouses gases. But we can say with certainty that, even if Mars, Pluto or any other planets have warmed in recent years, it is not due to changes in solar activity.
It goes on to explain why. I guess this is what Thompson was trying to coyly suggest is the case: a well-known myth.

See also Climate myths: Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans.

Wait. Does this mean Rush shouldn't http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=20901>win the Nobel after all?!

Rush shouldn't win the Nobel after all?!

baby steps. they haven't even won a Grammy yet.

what zhongliu said.

Hilzoy: I'd suggest ignoring the tobacco funding links for now (figuring out whether the DDT story is true seems more important.)

Agreed. The main thing for me, is that like Donald Johnson, I remember this from a long time ago, far earlier than 1998.

So what I’d like to do is track down the state of this from say the early 90s. I recall it being the “accepted” reality as far back as the 80s. So what was the source for that I wonder? I’m not challenging your conclusions concerning Philip Morris and the AFM – but I do wonder what the source for this was way before that.

OCSteve: Here's Tim Lambert's best attempt to track it.

To be clear: as theo said, I think the WWF did support a ban in 2000, and for all I know before that. And it would not surprise me to learn that the bad publicity that DDT got in the US, where malaria had been eradicated, had some carry-over in the developing world, though Carson herself seems to have been quite clear that using this stuff for public health purposes was OK.

What I think is true is: there was no global ban; DDT was in use throughout, though its effectiveness was declining in some places because mosquitoes were developing resistance to it (and also because some places were not well suited to it); and the fact that malaria programs were cut back from the 70s through the 90s had very little to do with this, and a lot more to do with things like: the eradication campaign had not worked, so people got discouraged; otoh it had worked in most temperate zones, which is to say all the rich countries, so rich countries tended to forget about it; people recognized that they needed a lot more public health infrastructure in some countries to make this work, and that was rather daunting; etc.

Plus, as I said, the original malaria eradication program had not operated in most of sub-Saharan Africa, where most deaths are.

I'm going to chime in with Donald J. and OCSteve. I remember reading the "Environmentalists cause malaria by banning DDT" canard, from at least as far back as the early 90's.

I can't even read Thompson's remarks without expecting him to say "Just do it, Jack. Make a deal with the sun."

I wouldn't want to swear to this, but I think my memory on this DDT/Carson/malaria thing goes back before 1981. Presumably pesticide manufacturers and people who didn't like environmentalists were making this claim way back then. I believed it, since at that time I tended to believe people when they stated something in a sufficiently authoritative tone in some book, filed it away in my head as an example of when environmentalists go too far, and was pleasantly surprised when I came across Tim Lambert saying it was all false.

I'd have to check, but wasn't Dixie Ray Lee an advocate of the "DDT makes you stronger and smarter and is good in malts" approach?

A quick Google Groups search shows a Usenet article from 1991 mentioning the "DDT banned, malaria cases explode" meme

"Just do it, Jack. Make a deal with the sun."



I could be wrong, but I believe he's suggesting that D.A. Arthur Branch would urge Jack McCoy, prosecutor, to make such a deal, rather than bring the sun to court for trial, given that the jury's verdict would be uncertain.

So the question is: given that powerful harmful moneyed interests are going to come at you with lies, how are you going to combat that, knowing that in a toe-to-toe between the truth and pure BS, often the truth doesn't win and more often, the truth becomes bloodied and battered under the avalanche of tactical BS, such that it takes very intelligent people years to figure out what happened and, by postponing action for that long, those moneyed interests achieved their aims?

Because the BS will come straight at you...

Take Iraq. Mr Truth took four years and then some to work its way into public awareness. Far, far too late.

The truth may win out in the long-run for the benefit of historians, but by then all the damage has been done, so that's hardly worth mentioning as a victory.

And what is worse is that the effective ways to fight the good fight against BS are non-cognitive (for example, relying on people's tendencies to believe what's told to them by intimates), meaning that they're exploited just as easily by propagandists as they could be by right-minded citizens.

Whether it be Iraq or DDT or a health care plan or a prescription drug benefit, the truth keeps losing to well-funded BS. And there's no institution out there in an open and affluent society that can stop it.

Bruce Baugh: your recollection is correct. Dixy Lee Ray actually had herself doused with DDT on one occasion in order to demonstrate that it was not harmful (a completely pointless demonstration, of course.) Dr. Ray was unbelievably gullible when it came to antienvironmental propaganda - her books are loaded with references to publications put out by the LaRouchies (_21st Century_), the John Birch Society (_New American_) and so forth.

For those unawares, Dixy Lee Ray is the late Governor of Washington State, 1977-81. Having lived under her for all but her first couple of months of office, I'll note that she was, ah, colorful.

Does this mean we shouldn't be indicting the Rachel Carson and Al Gor for genocidal murder?

Or even Al Gore. And Rachel Carson probably isn't an object.

Having lived under her for all but her first couple of months of office

Hopefully this means something completely innocent.

"Hopefully this means something completely innocent."

Under her reign of originality.

"D.A. Arthur Branch would urge Jack McCoy, prosecutor"

Oh. Thanks. A little TV-deprived here.

"A little TV-deprived here."

I suspected. I watch a Law & Order relatively rarely -- after all, since I only have broadcast tv, it's only available maybe 6 times a week in its various incarnations, rather than 143 times a week, as it is on cable -- but I've seen it just enough to have been able to guess that one. Though, honestly, I pulled up IMDB, to start to check if it might be another role, before the most obvious role struck me, and I didn't bother to look further.

Though, gosh, it really is impressive how many times Thompson has played a colonel, a general, an admiral, a president, a senator, a head of the CIA, a cabinet secretary, or the like.

I have a dream that someone should make a kewl action picture starring Schwarzenegger, Thompson, Jesse Ventura, a CGI-inserted Ronald Reagan, a CGI-inserted Sonny Bono, a CGI-inserted George Murphy, Fred Grandy (Gopher), Ben Jones (Cooter), and Clint Eastwood (who would direct, of course) as the team of action heros who have to rescue Sheila Kuehl (from Dobie Gillis), and a CGI-inserted Helen Gahagan.

Glenda Jackson would play the team's mysterious and distant organizer and boss.

A remake of Red Dawn seems perfect; this time, the U.S. has been invaded by Islamic terrorists, after their conquest of Russia and Europe, and across the Bering Strait and down from Canada, as well as invading up from their sanctuaries in Latin America, who of course come in as illegal immigrants.

It could be the absolutelest bestest greatest Republican patriotic action film ever!

Who wouldn't want to see it?

Alternatively, it could be Predator 4.

Or Predator Vs. The Illegal Aliens.

"Predator 4"

Wouldn't that require ... oh, well, huh.

I also said something dumb the other day about Milton, not having read _Comus_.

Doesn't Al Gor mean he's from the Pakistan region about a thousand years ago? Or from a really crappy series of "fantasy" novels?

And now is a good time, as indeed most times are, to mention my favorite name in all history: Qutb-ud-Din, slave-general of Ghur. [And later the not-slave Sultan of Delhi.] Which is also spelled "Ghor" and (I think) one of the inspirations for the name in Norman's books.

A remake of Red Dawn seems perfect...


"Doesn't Al Gor mean he's from the Pakistan region about a thousand years ago? Or from a really crappy series of
'fantasy' novels?"

Nah, that would be Al Of Gor.

The first three books, actually, were pretty much just conventional knock-offs of Edgar Rice Burroughs, little different from Lin Carter and similar knock-offs. It was only in the fourth that John (Norman) Lange started feeling free to waxing philosophical about women's need to be dominated, and thereafter that that turned into the be-all and end-all of his books.

Don't get me started on his cries of "censorship" when, after many Gor novels, Betsy Wollheim finally decided to drop the series. It turns out there's a right, that few had hitherto been aware of, to have your fantasy series continued indefinitely by a major mass market paperback publisher. Who knew?

Still, Global Warming Champion Of Gor could be a turning point for the series.

Still, Global Warming Champion Of Gor could be a turning point for the series.

Suggested plot: The Goracle lives in a huge house consuming 10 times the energy of the average person and flies around the world hyping his chicken-little tale of doom. But in the end he pays himself some money for offsets so everyone lives happily ever after…

Could give the series new life…

Speaking strictly in terms of “Junk Science” that is…

Badgers? We don't need no steenking badgers!

Although the etiology of this sick slander about Carson is mildly interesting, it is nice to see that it is getting its debunking.

Most probable story in this is that Big Tobacco was publicizing much more broadly a nutty story that had been around for years -- they did not invent it but gave it large exposure.

Would be the normal way of "creativity" in marketing. When have you last seen a truly original commercial?


"I don't know that I'd accepted this as fact, but it's stood (relatively) unchallenged for long enough that I was beginning to think of it as the factual equivalent of a planet.

So much for that. I'll have to spend some time reading more about this tonight."

That gives you an important piece of information - the tobacco guys + anti-environmentalists are phenomenally good at inserting lies into public 'knowledge'.


Let me see if I have this correct, that puff of smoke on the grassy knoll was really someone spraying DDT?

Did big 'profits before people (and trees)' Business hatch a contorted Rube Goldberg plot to thwart the noble stewards of the earth? How dastardly!


In fact, that's typical of the style of canard often used by the Left because it plays so well to the paranoid.

No, that doesn't mean DDT hasn't some problems, but they really aren't worth avoiding it's use with the result that millions are at risk of disease, and thousand of death if it will in fact help, which it probably will.
(NOTE: The death rates start going up again worldwide after 1972. )
But making the villain of Big Tobbaco because everyone hates them? Come on!

And, just because it isn't officially banned for disease vector control doesn't mean that it's being used. It's not. The Greenies have seen to that.
Yeah, I know, they are allowed to spray in homes. But what happens when they go outside if the outside isn't sprayed? They get bit and infected then, that's what.

And the reason there isn't malaria in the US is because we used DDT and irradicated it. It used to plague the colonists in Virginia and Maryland, and even further north, as well.

We need to have it used more aggressively again where malaria is a problem.

Also, it looks like Lambert and Quiggin are reasoning from incomplete information while relying heavily on wild conjecture. Their arguments appear very weak, and are barely suggested and certainly don't "prove" what they allege
I would say they have an agenda, and are pulling out all the stops to push it, and you are abetting them.

I've seen some good articles on your site. But this isn't one of them.

p.s., is that cat acting alone, or are there some more shooters at street level and/or on the roofs? Or is that for you to know and me to find out?


The problem with DDT is indiscriminate use leads to development of DDT-resistant bugs. THAT is a big problem, one you certainly want to avoid by avoiding its use except when absolutely, positively necessary. Pesticide use for agricutural purposes isn't part of that. (And outdoor use for disease control IS allowed and encouraged).

Don't obscure that.

ytba: if you think that linking to pdfs of documents in which Bate asks for funding from the tobacco industry, and tobacco executives note having given it to him, constitutes "a conspiracy theory", or "playing to the paranoid", more power to you.

You write: "Yeah, I know, they are allowed to spray in homes. But what happens when they go outside if the outside isn't sprayed? They get bit and infected then, that's what." -- But no one is proposing spraying the entire earth. It would be crazy and completely unfeasible in lots of the world -- very remote parts of Africa, for instance, in which the jungle canopy would make aerial spraying impossible. Are you suggesting that in such parts of the world we should try to spray, say, the entire African jungle by hand?

Spraying in homes is a different matter -- it does kill mosquitoes that land on the walls, and when mosquito transmission occurs mostly at times when people are indoors (e.g., evening), this can work wonders. And for some mosquito species, this is really all that is needed. When transmission occurs all day long, it's not, but then outdoor spraying is often not possible.

I can't comment on all the articles you reference -- there are too many of them -- but I will note that some of them cite the very people whose credibility is under discussion, and a lot of the others either misstate their claims or infer causality from correlation. The Lancet article does the first: it claims there was a ban on DDT in 2000, which is false. It also does the second: it notes that after DDT spraying was stopped in several countries, malaria rates rose. But that does not show that that's why they rose.

In Sri Lanka, for instance, they stopped using DDT because they thought they had eradicated malaria, and when it came back they started using it again, only to discover that agricultural use had caused mosquitoes to become resistant to it. That is not a case in which more DDT wold have done the trick. It's not even a case in which people didn't use DDT out of environmental concern. But most of the articles you cite repeat the Sri Lanka example as though it did show this.

I should have noted, above, that outdoor spraying is allowed for public health purposes. I just meant to say that no one could expect it to eliminate malaria, and that there are places in which outdoor spraying would be completely useless unless done over a wide area, by hand.

"And outdoor use for disease control IS allowed and encouraged"

Do you have sources for that? Because the references I sited above say there is one. No, not an "official" one in all cases, but at least a "de-facto" one.

According to this reference . . .

"It is worth noting that the Lancet article linked above states that there was at the time writing in 2000 a "ban" on the use of DDT. The article also describes the consequences of this "ban":
When a malaria-endemic country stops using DDT, there is a cessation or great reduction in numbers of houses sprayed with insecticides, and this is accompanied by rapid growth of malaria burden within the country.1,12,17 DDT house spraying was stopped in Sri Lanka in 1961,
and this was followed by a major malaria epidemic. Since then, numerous epidemics have occurred in many countries, after suspension of DDT house treatments, such as Swaziland (1984) and Madagascar (1986-88), where malaria killed more than 100 000 people. In both cases, the authorities restarted DDT house spraying and stopped the catastrophic epidemics.8 In Madagascar, malaria incidence declined more than 90% after just two annual spray cycles. Today, few countries still use DDT and most have no way to even buy this insecticide. Without DDT, malaria rates are returning to those seen in the 1940s, affecting additional millions of infants, children, and adults."

So, it doesn't matter that "techincally" it is permitted, if "practically" it is so impossible that it is as if there were a ban. Also, it's not unreasonable to call it a "ban" due to the pressure of environmentalists not to use it.

1. There IS a "ban" because they can't get DDT, because . . .
2. they are strongly discouraged or even thwarted.
3. Indoor spraying consequently isn't being done.
4. Tens of thousnads are dying.

It isn't honest to say there shouldn't be a problem based on linguistic semantics when in fact there is a problem caused by the active withholding of DDT by those who should be providing it..

ytba: so, to recap: the Lancet article says there was a ban, but there wasn't; just a "ban", whose precise nature is not spelled out. There is no support for the claim that countries "can't get DDT"; and as of last year, it was being used in Eritrea, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Swaziland, South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia.

Also, the post you cite, and the article it quotes, repeat the Sri Lanka example, which is wrong. I can't check the Madagascar reference, since it's in the Journal of American Mosquito Control, to which I don't have access, but nothing in what's cited indicates causation.

note: the countries cited above are just the countries in Africa where DDT was used last year, according to the NYT.


What do you mean the "precise nature [of the "ban"] is not spelled out.?" It's pretty clear. "Today, . . . most [countries] have no way to even buy this insecticide [DDT]. The other links I provided discuss the pressure from environmental groups. Your objection that they are allowed to use it is meaningless if they don't have it to use. What part of that don't you understand?

Your argument is semantic, and not based on the reality which contradicts it.

Also, I trust you are aware that invoking the involvement of tobacco is in itself a "wedge issue?" That's so because their support of the pro-DDT advocates neither proves nor disproves whether DDT works, but it does distract from the main issues of DDT's effectiveness, it's availability for use and who is now preventing it's aquisition and use.

Your playing the tobacco card insures that this discussion will be less about DDT and more on periferal historical non-issues. That of course neither proves nor disproves your assertions. What it does do, though, is cloud the issue for those who don't realize that it is irrelevant.

Bottom line, DDT helps, people aren't able to get it, as a result people are dying, and talking about what the tobacco people did around 30 years ago accomplishes nothing..

good night

Thanks for proving my point with that great link, btw

"“Finally, with the W.H.O.’s unambiguous leadership on the issue, we can put to rest the junk science and myths that have provided aid and comfort to the real enemy — mosquitoes,” said the senator, a medical doctor."

Which means that your title needs to be corrected, as pointed out in one of mine about the "DDT HOAX HOAX." see also:

Note also that the article laments that the levels at which DDT needs to be used have been no where near reached. And it is important to realize that if people believed the references you cite in your article above, they would be against that happening. Please make any necessary corrections.

Thanks for supporting your local drop in poster. I'll be on my way. (tips hat, respectfully)

Hi ho, Beauregard! Giiddiup, Mule! Our work here is done!

Who was that masked man?

"Who was that masked man?"

I don't know, but he seems to have wedgied himself.

The stranger certainly used bold. I don't think we'll see his kind much agin...

As one who has read Tim Lambert's blog for some time, it is clear that Lambert's theme is that DDT has not been banned for all purposes. It has largely been banned for agricultural purposes, but not for controlling disease. It has been suggested that indiscriminate spraying of households can increase resistance mosquitoes, but that DDT impregnated mosquito nets would be much more effective.

The problem that you have is that indiscriminate spraying of DDT for agricultural and household purposes will speed the rate at which mosquitoes become resistant to it. It really is quite as simple as that--evolution, you know. In point of fact, it is highly likely that the reduced use of DDT has saved more lives, because it reduced the rate at which the mosquitoes became resistant to the pesticide. That is one of Lambert's points, and the points of people that he has cited.

raj: yep. There is no international ban on DDT for public health purposes. (There is a ban in e.g. the US, but so what? We have no malaria.) Countries are actually using DDT for those purposes, which means it's wrong that they are "not able to get it." It sometimes doesn't work for a variety of reasons, including resistance and not being appropriate for a given environment.

That masked man citing the views of Sen. Coburn, famed public health expert, in support of his claim is kind of classic, though.

"I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. I can tell you that the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the third world. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn't give a damn."

Michael Crighton, MD (Harvard, 1967)
Speech --"Environmentalism as Religion" at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco
September 15, 2003


Note also that Crighton doesn't blame Rachel Carson.

DDT might be banned...But for so people that is not a good thing. Some people use DDT for to keep mosquitoes away from their bodies and they may just have bad allergic reation. This the case DDT could help them pervent being placed into a hospital. Thats what happened to me several times.


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