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Letters: DDT—it’s not dangerous!

DDT—it’s not dangerous!

“You recently wrote a startling article on the health benefits of DDT. Not long after that, I read that DDT causes miscarriages. Will you please comment on this?”
-R.S., New Mexico

Several months ago, there was a bit of a stir resulting from a study that implicated DDT in some premature births in the 1960s (I wasn’t able to find anything linking it to miscarriages). First of all, keep in mind that the study making these claims is not conclusive and the authors did not claim that it was. Even if it does turn out to be valid, a slight increase in prematurity of birth is a small price to pay for the millions of lives saved by DDT from malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever.

The scientists reviewed the medical records of 2,380 children born between 1959 and 1966 and examined their mothers’ blood samples stored during pregnancy. Five hundred and eighty-two children out of the 2,380 were premature or small at birth.

This figure of 582 children is almost 25 percent of the total sample. One wonders, with this extremely high level of prematurity and low birth weight, what kind of background they came from. Were the mothers malnourished? Did they smoke or drink heavily? What real toxins were they exposed to? What medications or other drugs were they taking during the pregnancy? Of these 582 children, how many, if any, were small or premature because of DDT levels in the blood? This is impossible to say.

According to the Associated Press report, this study “is the strongest evidence yet that DDT could be harmful to humans. It has previously been proven hazardous to wildlife.”

While the first part of the statement may be true, it isn’t much of a case. If an inconclusive study is the strongest evidence against DDT, that should tell researchers something.

The second part of the above statement-that DDT has been proven hazardous to wildlife-is completely false. Eagle eggs have not been thinned. Animal birth rates have not been affected. Nor have mutant animals been born. The irresponsible green movement made up these preposterous stories.

Dr. Matthew Longnecker, lead author of the study, did say that he was not condemning DDT but, AP reported, “he said the benefit of controlling mosquitoes with the chemical might need to be reassessed.”

There is a simpler and more practical solution. Pregnant women should stay away from all chemicals. DDT should not be banned anywhere, as it is a great asset to mankind.

References:

Ross, Emma. “DDT use in United States linked to premature births in 1960s,” Associated Press, 7/13/01
“DDT and Preterm babies,” Lancet, 358: 110-114

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