Using snake oil to lubricate jaws

Oooh, I missed this one; Instapundit said:

August 20, 2007

SOME KIND WORDS FOR DDT — in the New York Times, no less. “Today, indoor DDT spraying to control malaria in Africa is supported by the World Health Organization; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the United States Agency for International Development. . . . Even those mosquitoes already resistant to poisoning by DDT are repelled by it.”

The debate over DDT is over. There’s scientific consensus. Anyone who disagrees is a DDT denialist and a mouthpiece for Big Mosquito.

The debate should be over.  There is scientific consensus that DDT is dangerous and the ban on broadcast use was wise, fair, and still necessary.  Reynolds is one of the denialist brigade who keeps trying to paint environmentalists wrong for working for the ban.

Reynolds claim is deceptive in at least three ways:

  1. Omission, failing to note history:  Reynolds fails to note that without the ban on broadcast use of DDT (like crop spraying, or spraying of swamps and rivers), DDT would by now be completely ineffective against mosquitoes.  The ban on crop spraying (broadcast use) has been instrumental in preserving the effectiveness of DDT against malaria.  The debate is over, Reynolds lost, and its time he quit denying it (speaking of denialism).  The ban on DDT spraying in the U.S., following similar bans in Europe, and with similar following bans in other nations, has been a key factor in our current victories against malaria — a key factor for the anti-malaria forces.
  2. Omission, not understanding the science:  Reynolds may not know that DDT was cast against other  pesticides that are known to have very low repellent characteristics.  There are other, much more effective and less toxic, and less expensive, ways to repel mosquitoes.
  3. Failure to state the whole case:  Reynolds, the DDT-advocate in the New York Times,  and the study cited, fail to note that DDT is inadequate to more than a very short-term, partial campaign against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  Other studies recently published note powerful, long-term reduction in malaria infections by use of mosquito netting; these declines do not require multiple, expensive and logistically difficult sprayings of poison in homes every year.  Perhaps more critically, research now shows that mosquito nets produce malaria reductions in the absence of DDT spraying, and the reductions stick; DDT spraying alone cannot produce either a long-term reduction in malaria (say, longer than a year), nor will the reductions stick, nor will the reductions be as great.  Nets work without DDT; DDT does not work without nets.

Other than that, Reynolds is right:  The debate is over.  Reynolds’ “spray DDT on everything — it works better than snake-oil” argument lost.  It’s time Reynolds stops denying the facts.

One Response to Using snake oil to lubricate jaws

  1. Ray C. says:

    What these wrong-wing knuckleheads claim to be advocating — the use of DDT against malarial mosquitos — is already allowed. So what is it they’re really on about?


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