Human Risk Of DDT Is Almost Infinitesimal

To The Reader’s Forum:

I’m surprised that Tom Erlandson would write some of the things he did in the May 26 Readers’ Forum (Voice of the People Should Be Heard). If I may paraphrase him, he seems to be saying: Rachel Carson was right. DDT is bad, therefore fracking is bad now and the people are right to abhor it.

I’ll grant that DDT is bad for birds and non-target insects (which Tom didn’t mention) and it leaves long term residues in the environment. But the human risk of DDT, and most other modern pesticides, is almost infinitesimal compared to many of the insecticides they replaced. Examples would include nicotine sulfate and lead arsenate. I knew a man who, in early tests, ate a tablespoonful of pure DDT every day for a month with no apparent immediate or delayed effects. The man who applied DDT spray to our barn liked to make a show of drinking a cupped handful from the tank at every stop. He had a normal life span and health.

Houseflies are the worst pest on a dairy farm. Before DDT we used ultra-safe pyrethrum in oil spray. It killed only the flies it actually hit and it had no residual effectiveness. When DDT appeared, suddenly there were practically no flies in the barn for weeks.

DDT was used on crops and in many other applications. It and subsequent modern pesticides made enormous gains in yield, purity, and quality of food possible and helped keep food prices low. There was speculation about the extinction of the house fly and there was a large scale world program for eradication of malaria, both based on DDT. Like nearly every other blessing, this blessing was inherently mixed. The black and white good Rachel Carson vs bad chemical companies; the them vs us is propaganda and politics, not science.

DDT is a chlorinated hydrocarbon. There are no chlorinated hydrocarbons in fracking fluid. Drawing any connection between the two is low grade non sequtur deception. I often have to laugh at ”the people” superstitiously mumbling in horror about ”chemicals” when they have absolutely no idea what a chemical even is. Tom knows as well as I do that ”the people” almost never act on the basis of scientific information or logic and nearly always on the basis of emotion and ignorance, and above all fad and conformity. That indictment includes liberal contributors to environmental organizations.

Norman P. Carlson