Debunking Junk Science’s hoax “100 Things You Should Know About DDT”: #14, William Ruckelshaus’s bias

Another in a continuing series, showing the errors in’s list of “100 things you should know about DDT.” (No, these are not in order.) In the summer of 2009, the denialists have trotted this error out again.

At the astonishingly truthfully-named site “Junk Science,” Steven Milloy creates a series of hoaxes with a page titled “100 things you should know about DDT.”  It is loaded with hoaxes about DDT, urging its use, and about Rachel Carson, and about EPA and the federal regulation of DDT, and about malaria and DDT’s role in the ambitious but ill-fated campaign to eradicate malaria operated by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1955, officially until 1969.  Milloy knows junk science, and he dishes it out with large ladles.

Among what must be 100 errors, Milloy makes this claim, I suppose to suggest that William Ruckelshaus was biased when Rickelshaus headed the Environmental Protection Agency:

14.  William Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972, was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

This is a false statement on Milloy’s site.  After finding no credible source for the claim that Ruckelshaus was ever affiliated with EDF in any way, I contacted Ruckelshaus’s office, and got confirmation that Ruckelshaus was not and never has been affiliated with EDF.  It should be a clue that this claim appears only at sites who impugn Ruckelshaus for his action in banning DDT use in U.S. agriculture.


Junk Science's oddly apt logo and slogan

Hiding the truth in plain view: Junk Science is a site that promotes junk science, an unintended flash of honesty at a site that otherwise promotes hoaxes about science. Note the slogan. Does this site cover its hoaxes by stating plainly that it promotes “all the junk science that’s fit to debunk?”

It is also highly unlikely that he ever wrote a fund-raising letter for the group, certainly not while he was a public official.  The implicit claim of Junk, that William Ruckelshaus was not a fair referee in the DDT case, is a false claim.

I asked Milloy to correct errors at his site, and he has steadfastly refused.

Here is what Milloy’s point #14 would say, with the falsehoods removed:

14.  William Ruckelshaus [was] the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972[.], was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read “EDF’s scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won.”

Below the fold:  William D. Ruckelshaus’s “official” biography, if you call him today, February 17, 2011.  You should note, there is no mention of any work with EDF.

Biography of William D. Ruckelshaus:




William D. Ruckelshaus is currently a Strategic Director in the Madrona Venture Group, formed in 1999 and a principal in Madrona Investment Group, L.L.C. (MIG), a Seattle based investment company, formed in 1996.  He was Chairman/CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries from 1988 to 1995 and Chairman from 1995 to 1999.

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 24, 1932, Mr. Ruckelshaus graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and obtained his law degree from Harvard University in 1960.   He began a career in law with the Indianapolis firm of Ruckelshaus, Bobbitt and O’Connor in 1960 and was associated with the firm for eight years.  In addition, he was Deputy Attorney General of Indiana from 1960 through 1965.  He was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives and its majority leader from 1967 to 1969.  The President appointed him for the years 1969 and 1970 as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mr. Ruckelshaus became the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s first Administrator when the agency was formed in December 1970, where he served until April 1973. In April 1973 he was appointed acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and in the same year was appointed Deputy Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice.

From 1974 through 1976, Mr. Ruckelshaus was a senior partner in the Washington, DC law firm of Ruckelshaus Beveridge & Fairbanks.   He joined Weyerhaeuser Company in Tacoma, Washington as Senior Vice President for Law and Corporate Affairs from 1976 to 1983 and was responsible for policy setting and coordination of the company’s key external relationships and its legal service functions.  In 1983, Mr. Ruckelshaus was appointed by President Reagan as the fifth EPA Administrator until 1985.  He served until joining Perkins Coie in 1985, a Seattle based law firm.

Currently, former Chairman of the Board of Isilon Systems and on the board of TVW.  From July 1997 to July 1998, President Clinton appointed him as the U.S. envoy in the implementing of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and in 1999 he was appointed by Governor Gary Locke as the Chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for the State of Washington and in May, 2007 appointed by Governor Christine Gregoire as Chairman of the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership. On June, 2001, he was appointed by President Bush as a member of the Commission on Ocean Policy which was created by Congress in 2000.

He currently serves on the Board of numerous profit and non for profit organizations, i.e., The Energy Foundation, Center for Global Development and founding Director of the Initiative for Global Development.

Mr. Ruckelshaus and his wife, Jill, reside in Seattle, Washington.  They have five children and 12 grandchildren.

9 Responses to Debunking Junk Science’s hoax “100 Things You Should Know About DDT”: #14, William Ruckelshaus’s bias

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks for dropping by, East Texas. Happy to have you checking this stuff out.

    Section VII of Milloy’s list of 100 mostly hoax claims?

    Yeah, that’s mostly fiction, too. Rachel Carson was right about DDT, especially effects on birds. More than 1,000 follow up studies confirmed Carson’s science citations, and no study ever rebutted any part of what she wrote in Silent Spring.

    See this post on the topic of bird harms from DDT, and especially note the quoting from Discovery Magazine. Follow the links.

    Milloy developed an elegant lie about the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, too, claiming that eagles were increasing in numbers, when Audubon explicitly found exactly the opposite. Among other tricks, Milloy misinterprets the methods. Every observer notes every bird observed. Over the years more observers joined in, often in groups. So the number of observers increased. In the raw counts, each person’s observation is counted. If five people observe the same eagle, it’s five hashmarks. Audubon crosschecks the observations for time and place, and makes sure that five people observing one eagle at the same time gets counted as one eagle. Milloy prefers the raw, false but inflated number.


    Milloy’s links there are rubbish. To the extent he cites good science studies, he fibs about the results. Most often, he just ignores the studies and makes stuff up.


  2. East Texan says:

    What about Section VII, Bald Eagles, items 66 – 77, which lists scientific research articles that debunk myths about the correlation between DDT and the decline of Bald Eagles? Is all that just rubbish as well?


  3. Daphne Krueger says:

    A while ago, I found an article on the internet, that debumked all the claims about DDT. When I was a child, intermitantly we had bedbugs. My mother used DDT and it iradicated them. She made the claim, many times, DDT killed bed bugs. No, all the insecticides used, they don’t complete kill bed bugs. They have to heat the house to 110 degrees and it can bankrupt a family if bed bugs are in the house. Mother didn’t spray DDT, she painted the bed and cracks in the walls. Our family is very healthy.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    What would you call people who simply refuse to grant credence to the facts?

    Seriously. As the Arctic sea ice continues to shrink, these denialists say it’s growing. For the past two years, in the face of continued warming, they’ve been telling us the planet is cooling. They’re even denying the physical structure of CO2 molecules.

    Worse for your case, the people who make these statements are not experts in Arctic ice and don’t study it, they are not climate specialists, few even know how to read a weather map. They are not nuclear physicists, nor chemists.

    That’s not reality based. It’s championship denial. What should we be calling it?


  5. David Xavier says:

    Calling dissent over the impact of mankind on the earth’s Climate – “Climate Denialism” = Dunning-Kruger Effect


  6. karl says:

    Of possible interest: The latest issue of Harper’s has a great [review] of Sonia Shah’s new book on malaria “The Fever”. As is typical for Harper’s, the “review” is less about the book and more an essay on the subject of the book, in this case: why we can’t beat malaria. As will come as no surprise to you Ed or your regular readers, the answer has nothing to do with the over/under use of DDT (or any other insecticide or particular drug) and everything to do with a failure to address the underlying conditions that promote the disease: poverty, corruption, and a failure of governments to make fighting it a priority.

    Of course the people who think Junkscience is a reliable source of information don’t read Harpers….


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    You’re right — I’m working on a page to show the DDT stuff. See the “DDT Chronicles” tab at the top of the page, just below the masthead. It needs indexing.

    But there is this day job, you know?

    Glad you’re still out there, Jim!

    (If you don’t recognize the name, Dear Reader, take a look at Jim’s sleuthing to track down a copy of the Edmund Sweeney decision, and to post it all on-line, at a time when it was largely forgotten and impossible to come by. Mr. Easter exposed a great deal of fibbing by Mr. Milloy on his own, and we should remember his work, and use it.)


  8. jre says:

    Ed –
    Your responses to Milloy are great, and should be collected under one category with supporting material. A single link could direct the curious to a comprehensive source of high-quality information on DDT, organized by DDT myths in order of notoriety popularity — much as John Cook has done with climate denialism over at Just a thought.
    – Jim


Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: