Discussion:
A sad tale of deadly environmental extremism
(too old to reply)
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.
Mario Goveia
2005-03-17 07:55:07 UTC
Permalink
Rachel Carson, one of the deadliest of all the
environmentalist extremists, is the person most
responsible for using junk science to ban DDT,
resulting in the resurgence of malaria and the deaths
of millions of people each year, mostly in poor
tropical countries. This is a critical review of her
book "Silent Spring" and shows how dangerous and
counterproductive the environmental extremists can be.

Silent Spring at 40

Rachel Carson?s classic is not aging well.

By Ronald Bailey

The modern environmentalist movement was launched at
the beginning of June 1962, when excerpts from what
would become Rachel Carson?s anti-chemical landmark
Silent Spring were published in The New Yorker.
"Without this book, the environmental movement might
have been long delayed or never have developed at
all," declared then-Vice President Albert Gore in his
introduction to the 1994 edition. The foreword to the
25th anniversary edition accurately declared, "It led
to environmental legislation at every level of
government."

In 1999 Time named Carson one of the "100 People of
the Century." Seven years earlier, a panel of
distinguished Americans had selected Silent Spring as
the most influential book of the previous 50 years.
When I went in search of a copy recently, several
bookstore owners told me they didn?t have any in stock
because local high schools still assign the book and
students had cleaned them out.

Carson worked for years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, eventually becoming the chief editor of that
agency?s publications. Carson achieved financial
independence in the 1950s with the publication of her
popular celebrations of marine ecosystems, The Sea
Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. Rereading Silent
Spring reminds one that the book?s effectiveness was
due mainly to Carson?s passionate, poetic language
describing the alleged horrors that modern synthetic
chemicals visit upon defenseless nature and hapless
humanity. Carson was moved to write Silent Spring by
her increasing concern about the effects of pesticides
on wildlife. Her chief villain was the pesticide DDT.

The 1950s saw the advent of an array of synthetic
pesticides that were hailed as modern miracles in the
war against pests and weeds. First and foremost of
these chemicals was DDT. DDT?s insecticidal properties
were discovered in the late 1930s by Paul Muller, a
chemist at the Swiss chemical firm J.R. Geigy. The
American military started testing it in 1942, and soon
the insecticide was being sprayed in war zones to
protect American troops against insect-borne diseases
such as typhus and malaria. In 1943 DDT famously
stopped a typhus epidemic in Naples in its tracks
shortly after the Allies invaded. DDT was hailed as
the "wonder insecticide of World War II."

As soon as the war ended, American consumers and
farmers quickly adopted the wonder insecticide,
replacing the old-fashioned arsenic-based pesticides,
which were truly nasty. Testing by the U.S. Public
Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration?s
Division of Pharmacology found no serious human
toxicity problems with DDT. Muller, DDT?s inventor,
was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.

DDT was soon widely deployed by public health
officials, who banished malaria from the southern
United States with its help. The World Health
Organization credits DDT with saving 50 million to 100
million lives by preventing malaria. In 1943 Venezuela
had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use
of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had
over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962
in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped
from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968.

The tone of a Scientific American article by Francis
Joseph Weiss celebrating the advent of "Chemical
Agriculture" was typical of much of the reporting in
the early 1950s. "In 1820 about 72 per cent of the
population worked in agriculture, the proportion in
1950 was only about 15 per cent," reported Weiss.
"Chemical agriculture, still in its infancy, should
eventually advance our agricultural efficiency at
least as much as machines have in the past 150 years."
This improvement in agricultural efficiency would
happen because "farming is being revolutionized by new
fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weed killers,
leaf removers, soil conditioners, plant hormones,
trace minerals, antibiotics and synthetic milk for
pigs."

In 1952 insects, weeds, and disease cost farmers $13
billion in crops annually. Since gross annual
agricultural output at that time totaled $31 billion,
it was estimated that preventing this damage by using
pesticides would boost food and fiber production by 42
percent. Agricultural productivity in the United
States, spurred by improvements in farming practices
and technologies, has continued its exponential
increase. As a result, the percentage of Americans
living and working on farms has dropped from 15
percent in 1950 to under 1.8 percent today.

But DDT and other pesticides had a dark side. They not
only killed the pests at which they were aimed but
often killed beneficial organisms as well. Carson, the
passionate defender of wildlife, was determined to
spotlight these harms. Memorably, she painted a
scenario in which birds had all been poisoned by
insecticides, resulting in a "silent spring" in which
"no birds sing."

The scientific controversy over the effects of DDT on
wildlife, especially birds, still vexes researchers.
In the late 1960s, some researchers concluded that
exposure to DDT caused eggshell thinning in some bird
species, especially raptors such as eagles and
peregrine falcons. Thinner shells meant fewer
hatchlings and declining numbers. But researchers also
found that other bird species, such as quail,
pheasants, and chickens, were unaffected even by large
doses DDT.

On June 14, 1972, 30 years ago this week, the EPA
banned DDT despite considerable evidence of its safety
offered in seven months of agency hearings. After
listening to that testimony, the EPA?s own
administrative law judge declared, "DDT is not a
carcinogenic hazard to man...DDT is not a mutagenic or
teratogenic hazard to man...The use of DDT under the
regulations involved here [does] not have a
deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine
organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Today
environmental activists celebrate the EPA?s DDT ban as
their first great victory.

Carson argued that DDT and other pesticides were not
only harming wildlife but killing people too. The 1958
passage by Congress of the Delaney Clause, which
forbade the addition of any amount of chemicals
suspected of causing cancer to food, likely focused
Carson?s attention on that disease.

For the previous half-century some researchers had
been trying to prove that cancer was caused by
chemical contaminants in the environment. Wilhelm
Hueper, chief of environmental cancer research at the
National Cancer Institute and one of the leading
researchers in this area, became a major source for
Carson. Hueper was so convinced that trace exposures
to synthetic chemicals were a major cause of cancer in
humans that he totally dismissed the notion that
smoking cigarettes caused cancer. The assertion that
pesticides were dangerous human carcinogens was a
stroke of public relations genius. Even people who do
not care much about wildlife care a lot about their
own health and the health of their children.

In 1955 the American Cancer Society predicted that
"cancer will strike one in every four Americans rather
than the present estimate of one in five." The ACS
attributed the increase to "the growing number of
older persons in the population." The ACS did note
that the incidence of lung cancer was increasing very
rapidly, rising in the previous two decades by more
than 200 percent for women and by 600 percent for men.
But the ACS also noted that lung cancer "is the only
form of cancer which shows so definite a tendency."
Seven years later, Rachel Carson would call her
chapter on cancer "One in Four."

To bolster her case for the dangers of DDT, Carson
improperly cited cases of acute exposures to the
chemical as proof of its cancer-causing ability. For
example, she told the story of a woman who sprayed DDT
for spiders in her basement and died a month later of
leukemia. In another case, a man sprayed his office
for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed
with aplastic anemia. Today cancer specialists would
dismiss out of hand the implied claims that these
patients? cancers could be traced to such specific
pesticide exposures. The plain fact is that DDT has
never been shown to be a human carcinogen even after
four decades of intense scientific scrutiny.

Carson was also an effective popularizer of the idea
that children were especially vulnerable to the
carcinogenic effects of synthetic chemicals. "The
situation with respect to children is even more deeply
disturbing," she wrote. "A quarter century ago, cancer
in children was considered a medical rarity. Today,
more American school children die of cancer than from
any other disease [her emphasis]." In support of this
claim, Carson reported that "twelve per cent of all
deaths in children between the ages of one and
fourteen are caused by cancer."

Although it sounds alarming, Carson?s statistic is
essentially meaningless unless it?s given some
context, which she failed to supply. It turns out that
the percentage of children dying of cancer was rising
because other causes of death, such as infectious
diseases, were drastically declining.

In fact, cancer rates in children have not increased,
as they would have if Carson had been right that
children were especially susceptible to the alleged
health effects of modern chemicals. Just one rough
comparison illustrates this point: In 1938 cancer
killed 939 children under 14 years old out of a U.S.
population of 130 million. In 1998, according to the
National Cancer Institute, about 1,700 children died
of cancer, out of a population of more than 280
million. In 1999 the NCI noted that "over the past 20
years, there has been relatively little change in the
incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of
cancer; from 13 cases per 100,000 children in 1974 to
13.2 per 100,000 children in 1995."

Clearly, if cancer incidence isn?t going up, modern
chemicals can?t be a big factor in cancer. But this
simple point is lost on Carson?s heirs in the
environmental movement, who base their careers on
pursuing phantom risks. The truth is that both cancer
mortality and incidence rates have been declining for
about a decade, mostly because of a decrease in the
number of cigarette smokers.

The Great Cancer Scare launched by Carson, and
perpetuated by her environmentalist disciples ever
since, should have been put to rest by a definitive
1996 report from the National Academy of Sciences,
Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet. The
NAS concluded that levels of both synthetic and
natural carcinogens are "so low that they are unlikely
to pose an appreciable cancer risk." Worse yet from
the point of view of anti-chemical crusaders, the NAS
added that Mother Nature?s own chemicals probably
cause more cancer than anything mankind has dreamed
up: "Natural components of the diet may prove to be of
greater concern than synthetic components with respect
to cancer risk."

Meanwhile, Carson?s disciples have managed to persuade
many poor countries to stop using DDT against
mosquitoes. The result has been an enormous increase
in the number of people dying of malaria each year.
Today malaria infects between 300 million and 500
million people annually, killing as many 2.7 million
of them. Anti-DDT activists who tried to have the new
U.N. treaty on persistent organic pollutants totally
ban DDT have stepped back recently from their
ideological campaign, conceding that poor countries
should be able to use DDT to control malaria-carrying
mosquitoes.

So 40 years after the publication of Silent Spring,
the legacy of Rachel Carson is more troubling than her
admirers will acknowledge. The book did point to
problems that had not been adequately addressed, such
as the effects of DDT on some wildlife. And given the
state of the science at the time she wrote, one might
even make the case that Carson?s concerns about the
effects of synthetic chemicals on human health were
not completely unwarranted. Along with other
researchers, she was simply ignorant of the facts. But
after four decades in which tens of billions of
dollars have been wasted chasing imaginary risks
without measurably improving American health, her
intellectual descendants don?t have the same excuse.

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