DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Perhaps the most effective pesticide in the history of mankind. It was especially effective in eradicating mosquitoes, lice, and other parasites, as well as any bugs which feed on crops. The use of DDT virtually eliminated malaria in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific. It had just begun to be used in Africa when the EPA banned it in 1972.
The background to the ban on DDT originated in the 1940s and the 1950s, when some scientists were concerned about any possible hazards of DDT, but such fears were unfounded.
But then Rachel Carson came along with her book Silent Spring, claiming that DDT was harmful to the environment. One particular concern of hers was that DDT presented a danger to birds eating bugs that had been exposed to DDT (or ate any animals which had eaten any DDT-exposed bugs). Thus, she claimed a chain reaction would take place, in which virtually all animals would be killed off via DDT poisoning.
But she also claimed DDT was harmful to birds on the grounds that it would result in the eggs they lay to be thinner than usual, and thus the eggs could easily break or even be crushed. But research proved that low-calcium diets (the more calcium, the thicker the eggs), not DDT, resulted in thinner eggs. It also proved DDT did not have an impact on the amount of calcium in the diets of birds.
Some experts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were convinced that DDT was not harmful to the environment. But EPA head William Ruckelshaus (due to his ties to environmental groups) decided to ban DDT in 1972, saying that it caused cancer (even though there was no evidence to support such a claim). There have also been arguments that various bugs (e.g. bed bugs) developed a resistance to DDT, but there is no evidence to support that claim either.
The ban on DDT was a major victory for the environmentalists, but the losers would be humans. Cases of malaria surged throughout the Third World after the use of DDT was discontinued, especially in Africa. As a result, millions of Africans would succumb to the deadly disease. I wonder how Obama feels about that.
Since many subsequent pesticides have proved to be less effective against mosquitoes and other parasites, it may be only a matter of time before malaria resurfaces in the United States and other developed nations. In fact, Tom Bethell (who devoted a chapter to DDT in book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science) predicted that a malaria outbreak in the United States would result in the ban on DDT being lifted.
It is a shame that Americans have to wait until a malaria outbreak occurs here while millions of people in Africa and other parts of the world are dying of malaria for DDT to be brought back. Thus, let’s bring back DDT and eradicate malaria and any other diseases transferred from parasites.