Burt Folsom’s blog distorts history of DDT

I hadn’t thought Burt Folsom, author of FDR Goes to War, much of an ideologue, but a post at his blog makes me wonder about whether he is so grossly inaccurate on other things, too.

The post, written by Anita Folsom, said:

Fast-forward to the post-World War II period. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her best-selling text, Silent Spring, in which she protested the effects of pesticides on the environment.  Ten years later, DDT was banned.

Thomas Sowell points out that such bans, while passed with the best of intentions, have unleashed growth in the numbers of mosquitoes and a huge recurrence of malaria in parts of the world where it had been under control. The same is true of modern pesticides in the U.S. today.  One reason for the rise in the incidence of bedbugs, which bite humans and  spread disease, is that the federal government has banned the use of chemicals that were effective against such insects.

The issue is one of balance.  While it is every citizen’s responsibility to take an interest in a clean environment, it is also a responsibility to avoid over-zealous regulators who cause harm by banning useful chemicals.  Perhaps what is needed is a substance that will cause bureaucrats to leave citizens alone, both immediately and in the future.

Perhaps the trouble comes from relying on Thomas Sowell as a source here — on DDT and Rachel Carson, Sowell appears to be  just making up false stuff.

Thomas Sowell has come unstuck in history, at least with regard to DDT and malaria.

Thomas Sowell has come unstuck in history, at least with regard to DDT and malaria.

First, the “DDT ban” mentioned here was by U.S. EPA.  Consequently, it applies ONLY to the U.S., and not to any nation where malaria is a problem.

Second, the order banning DDT in the U.S. restricted the ban to agricultural use on agricultural crops, almost solely cotton at the time.  DDT use to fight malaria would still be legal in the U.S.

Third, the order banning DDT use in the U.S. specifically exempted manufacture of DDT — so in effect, the order more than doubled the amount of DDT available to fight malaria mosquitoes because all U.S. production was dedicated to export, specifically to allow DDT to be used to fight malaria.

Fourth, and probably most critically, it is simply false that malaria resurged when DDT was banned.  By 1972, malaria infections were about 500 million annually, worldwide.  Malaria deaths were about 2 million.  Even without U.S. spraying DDT on cotton crops in Texas and Arkansas, and to be honest, without a lot of DDT use except in indoor residual spraying as promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria infections have been reduced by 50%, to about 250 million annually — and malaria deaths were reduced by more than 50%, to fewer than 900,000 annually, worldwide.  WHO estimates more than 700,000 African children were saved from malaria deaths in the decade from 2001 through 2010.

Malaria deaths and malaria infections decreased after DDT was banned in the U.S., and continue to decline.


Burt and Anita Folsom should have checked Sowell’s claims on DDT, rather than accepting them as gospel.

Fifth, while it is true that reports generally claim that DDT limited bedbug infestations in the 1960s, the truth is that bedbugs became immune to DDT in the 1950s, and DDT is perfectly useless against almost all populations of the beasties today, and since 1960, 51 years ago.  Also, the evolution to be immune to DDT primed bedbugs to evolve resistance to other pesticides very quickly.  DDT didn’t stop bedbugs, and lack of DDT didn’t contribute to bedbug infestations after 1960.

(Maybe worst, and odder, 111 people have been injured by pesticides used to control bedbugs, one fatally, in the past ten years.  Which is worse?)

Sixth, bedbugs do not spread disease, at least not so far as is known to medical and entomological science.

Sowell’s claims endorsed by Folsom are exactly wrong, 180-degrees different from the truth.  Sowell and Folsom are victims of the DDT Good/Rachel Carson Bad Hoaxes.

Since malaria has been so dramatically reduced since the U.S. banned the use of DDT, perhaps Rachel Carson should be given full credit for every life saved.  It’s important to remember that Carson herself did not suggest that DDT be banned, but instead warned that unless DDT use were restricted, mosquitoes and bedbugs would evolve resistance and immunity to it.  DDT use was not restricted enough, soon enough, and both of those pests developed resistance and immunity to DDT.

Ms. Folsom urges restraint in regulation, she says, because over-enthusiastic banning of DDT brought harm.  Since her premise is exactly wrong, would she like to correct the piece to urge more regulation of the reasonable kind that EPA demonstrated?  That would be just.

Good sources of information on malaria, DDT, and Rachel Carson and EPA:

Africa had a surplus of DDT from 1970s through 1990s, creating a massive toxic cleanup problem for today. This FAO photograph shows

Africa had a surplus of DDT from 1970s through 1990s, creating a massive toxic cleanup problem for today. This FAO photograph shows “TN before: 40 tonnes of 50 year old DDT were found in Menzel Bourguiba Hospital, TN.” DDT was not used because it was largely ineffective; but had any nation wished to use it, there was plenty to use.


14 Responses to Burt Folsom’s blog distorts history of DDT

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Flatlander, are the links better, now?


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Sarah, if you check here, you’ll find that any number of nations use DDT all the time. It’s especially used in India. India uses more DDT every year than all the rest of the world combined.

    India also has spreading malaria troubles.

    So much for the claim that DDT works magic against malaria, eh?

    Is DDT banned? The World Health Organization promulgated a treaty signed by most nations in the world which lays out an easy, one-step process for any nation to use DDT.

    Where is DDT banned? Banned from what?


  3. Thanks for the post. Now it is clear to me that DDT was banned. I learned a lot from this post and as well as from the comments.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Despite paranoia, DDT is still unhealthy, Rachel Carson is still right, and crabbing about either Rachel Carson, EPA or the ban on DDT use in the U.S. is the same as standing by and doing nothing while African kids die from malaria.

    Just because Carson was right about DDT doesn’t mean we don’t need to fight malaria.


  5. DocEpador says:

    While it’s easy to find and dissect fanatics’ delusions once they are put to written word, it doesn’t follow that all of their premises or conclusions are patently false or true.

    Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.


  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Flatlander, I haven’t had the time to edit it in.

    You can track most of the stuff in headlines, here, then link to the posts with links to other sources: https://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ddt-chronicles-at-millard-fillmores-bathtub/


  7. flatlander100 says:

    Do you think you could post a footnoted version of your DDT post, with sources indicated for each of your numbered points?


  8. […] See Hank Roberts’ comment in the post on another repeat of the old DDT/Rachel Carson hoaxes. […]


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    A word of warning, folks: If you respond to the Gathercole post by visiting his links, he’s liable to spam you with daily, posts featuring massive .pdf files, none of which would pass a freshman essay class nor the high school report design class.

    Plus, he’s 40 years behind in his reading on malaria, and dead wrong on the science.

    Just FYI.


  10. The impact of the removal of DDT

    Through the COLD-BLOODED policies and DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE of Anti-Pesticide Lunatics, DDT was prohibited in a manner that can only be described as « Eco-Manslaughter ».

    These Enviro-Lunatics prefer seeing money wasted on investigating myths like so-called GLOBAL WARMING rather that solving some REAL world problems, such as with POVERTY, AIDS, POLLUTED DRINKING WATER, and MALARIA, which are afflicting and killing many times more people than GLOBAL WARMING ever will.


    Malaria deaths and malaria infections INCREASED after DDT was PROHIBITED, and continues to RISE.

    In 2004, popular author Michael Crichton summed up the situation with the following excerpt from his book entitled State Of Fear ―

    « Arguably, the greatest tragedy of the Twentieth Century was the removal of DDT. »

    « DDT was the best insecticide for the control of mosquitoes. »

    « Despite views to the contrary, no other products were as efficient, or as safe. »

    « Since the removal of DDT, it has been estimated that thirty to fifty million people have died unnecessarily from the effects of malaria. »

    « Sadly, removing DDT has killed more people than Hitler. »

    « Before the removal of DDT, malaria had become almost a minor illness, with only fifty thousand deaths per year throughout the world. »

    Anti-Pesticide Lunatics have encouraged destructive policies that have led to the death of millions of people.

    Anti-Pesticide Lunatics have killed more people than Hitler.

    Some people have accused the Anti-Pesticide Lunatics of « eco-manslaughter ». ( Driessen, 2003 )

    Let’s look at the statistics.

    It is believed that malaria acutely afflicts more than 515 million people per year.

    Two-thirds of all cases occur in Africa.

    Additionally, it causes more than 1 MILLION DEATHS PER YEAR, principally among children under the age of five years and pregnant women.

    It has been OVER THIRTY-FIVE YEARS since the removal of DDT.

    The reader can do the math.


    Incidentally, Nazi persecution killed an estimated NINE TO ELEVEN MILLION PEOPLE ( some say FIFTEEN ).

    We do not mean to say that that Anti-Pesticide Lunatics are responsible for cold-blooded murder.

    But, their policies are COLD-BLOODED.

    But, it is fun to make the comparison with the great mass murderers of history. ( Bush, 2006; Edwards & Milloy, 1999; White, 1999. )

    Description of Mass Murderers in Recent History ( cold-blooded murder of unarmed combatants ) ―

    Anti-Pesticide Lunatics ….. 35 million
    Stalin ….. 20 million
    Hitler ….. 15 million
    Mao ….. 10 million

    Paul K. Driessen wrote the book « Eco-Imperialism ― Green Power, Black Death » in 2003.

    He claimed that malaria deaths are TWO MILLION PER YEAR.

    Moreover, the hundreds of millions who « survive » the disease are too sick to work or take care of their families.

    They become more vulnerable to subsequent diseases, such as AIDS, dysentery, and tuberculosis.

    The survivors are obviously not able to adequately contribute to the economy ―

    « It’s no wonder that Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most destitute regions on Earth. » ( Driessen, 2003 )

    It has been observed that the removal of DDT showed that the West has a lack of compassion for those suffering in Third World countries.

    Treatments were used long enough in the Southern United States and Southern Europe to eliminate insect-borne diseases, but now that DDT is only needed in poor countries, such as those found in Africa and Asia, it has been removed.

    According to Driessen ―

    « Now, well-off environmental activists can afford to rail against pesticide use in Africa, while they enjoy all the comforts that our high-tech, malaria-free society bestows upon them. »

    Observers assert that many countries have been coming under pressure from international health and environmental agencies to give up DDT, or face losing aid grants or trade sanctions.

    Both Belize and Bolivia have gone on record to say that they gave in to such pressure from the U.S. Agency for International Development ( USAID ).

    Furthermore, many African nations want to use DDT to save lives, but they have been told their agricultural exports may not be accepted if spraying becomes « widespread ».

    Additionally, the European Union ( EU ) has threatened trade sanctions against countries like Uganda that seek to use DDT, even solely for malaria control. ( Bate & Tren, 2005; Edwards & Milloy, 1999; Shaw, 2005. )

    Happily, these anti-DDT policies have recently changed.

    And, COLD-BLOODED Anti-Pesticide Lunatics have thankfully NOT PREVAILED.


    National Organization Responding Against HUJE that seek to harm the Green Space Industry ( NORAHG ).

    NORAHG is a NATIONAL NON-PROFIT NON-PARTISAN organization dedicated to representing the work of RESPECTED and HIGHLY-RATED EXPERTS who promote PESTICIDE-REALISM and PESTICIDE-TRUTHS ― scientific research PROVES that pest control products CAUSE NO HARM and can be USED SAFELY.

    HUJE are enviro-lunatics, anti-pesticide activists, and lawn-haters, who particularly DESPISE the golf industry. There is NO RECOURSE but lawsuits against these ENVIRO BASTERDS.


    Pesticide Truths is a web-site managed by Uncle Adolph that contains History, Links, News, Audios, Videos, ALL Force Of Nature reports, and information right-off-the-press, in Black & White Documents.




    QUICK DOWNLOAD of ALL Force Of Nature reports in Full Colour Documents



  11. Hank Roberts says:

    When Seeing Is Disbelieving

    “… why would nature, after spending millennia evolving highly sophisticated senses to perceive the world, build in a psychological capacity that allows us to ignore what is right in front of our eyes?

    [Robert L. Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University] says the primary use of self-deception appears to be that it aids people in deceiving others.

    “Self-deception evolves in the service of deceit for two reasons,” he said. “It improves your ability to fool others and, second, it reduces the cognitive costs of deception.”

    The thing to keep in mind, Trivers says, is that even as evolution rewarded deceivers, it also punished deceivers who got caught. (The ability to spot deception evolves along with the ability to deceive.)

    Deliberate deception among humans, furthermore, requires effort. It requires you to hold both the truth and the untruth in your mind, and consciously suppress the truth. This is why the stereotype of liars depicts them with sweaty palms, croaking voices and shifty eyes — lying can be hard work, and liars are often nervous about getting caught.

    Self-deception, said Trivers, who has studied the phenomenon in contexts ranging from the Challenger explosion to a plane crash in Florida, offers a way around this psychological hurdle. If you can make yourself believe the untruth, for example, by marshaling evidence that supports your view and ignoring evidence that contradicts your position, it becomes that much easier to persuade others.

    Like many other aspects of brain functioning, self-deception does not require people to sit down and decide they are going to lie to themselves. (That would actually defeat the point of self-deception.) No, it usually happens subtly, without the person even being aware of it.

    “The costs of deception are being detected and punished,” Trivers said. “There is definitely a downside to self-deception, and that is you are putting yourself out of touch with reality, but it cuts down the risk of getting caught.”

    Lyn Nofziger, a longtime adviser to Ronald Reagan, once said the same thing about his boss — and about the utility of self-deception in politics: He could “convince himself that the truth is what he wants it to be. Most politicians are unable to do this, but they would give their eyeteeth if they could.” …


  12. Ed Darrell says:

    There is a concentrated and ambitious campaign to spread misinformation about Rachel Carson, the World Health Organization, and DDT — by a group cleverly named “Africa Fighting Malaria” among others. They have worked for more than a decade to try to establish in the public’s view that the DDT ban in the U.S. extended somehow to Africa. If you corner one of these guys in a public forum, they will say, “Well, while the ban did not officially extend to Africa, U.S. government officials including the EPA cut off funding for DDT and worked hard to persuade African nations not to use DDT.” That’s also false.

    Burt Folsom claims to be an historian, and he has an obligation to get the facts right. Sowell has been spreading the hoax for several years, and he’s been told the facts. He knows better and still refuses to tell the facts.

    It’s a political point. They don’t like EPA. They don’t like to admit regulations work and help out. They don’t like do-gooders who fight malaria, like WHO, and they’d like to ruin the reputation of that organization (partly so WHO’s credibility won’t work on things like their anti-tobacco campaign and pro-condom campaign).

    I believe, sad as it is, they know better, and still tell the hoax.


  13. Flakey says:

    “Ten years later, DDT was banned.”

    “First, the “DDT ban” mentioned here was by U.S. EPA. Consquently, it applies ONLY to the U.S., and not to any nation where malaria is a problem.”

    I am not sure if this is a deliberate mislead though, and not more of the America equals the world thinking that sometimes happens

    Like when an America senator complains of soldiers being denied their first amendment rights while serving in Saudi Arabia, and having to be told that the First Amendment only applies in America.

    When American companies think that the DMCA is a world wide piece of legislation, when again it is only an American law.


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