How the EPA Is Like DDT
Though synthesized in 1874, the insecticidal properties of DDT were not discovered until 1939, the outbreak of WWII in Europe. DDT was a boon to humanity when first used to kill vectors that spread human diseases. GIs welcomed "showers" of DDT to rid themselves of lice and other insects. When prisoner of war and concentration camps were liberated, the freed inmates were doused with DDT.
By the early 1950s, British colonial doctors were using DDT to control the scourge of the tropics, malaria, as well as other insect-borne diseases, by spraying the inside of huts with this persistent chemical about once every six months. Malaria rates plummeted. It was an inexpensive way to control a disease that killed millions and left many of the survivors partially disabled whenever they suffered outbreaks.
Unfortunately, like many good things, DDT was inappropriately used. Its very persistence made DDT inappropriate for indiscriminate use such as wide-spread spraying in agriculture. However, rather than control its use, the EPA banned DDT by claiming, without evidence, that DDT may cause cancer in humans. This false claim became the foundation for environmental groups to demand a world-wide ban of DDT, often tied to US foreign aid. In the tropics, where DDT was banned, malaria rates skyrocketed. Tens of millions died and hundreds of millions were partially disabled by preventable malaria outbreaks. This episode is not an honorable moment in US diplomacy.
Similarly, when the EPA was first used to prevent wide-spread destruction of the environment and control human diseases, it was a boon for humanity. It was very successful in those uses. However, now the EPA is being indiscriminately used to establish industrial policy and energy policy that has little relationship to human health or widespread environmental destruction. Such uses must be controlled.
For example, asthma is a perplexing disease for which, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no known cause. According CDC statistics, the percentage of the general population with asthma increased by 265% from 1980 to 2009.
According to EPA statistics, from 1980 to 2009, the emissions of sulfur dioxide when down by about 76% and, from 1995 to 2009, emissions of nitrogen dioxide went down by about 48%. There is no statistical relationship or known causal relationship between asthma and emissions of these compounds. Yet, when announcing the new cross-state emissions rules in 2011 to further restrict emissions of these compounds, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claimed, without evidence, the new regulations will prevent 400,000 new cases of asthma each year.
Such statements are unconscionable. There is no justification for any government agency to make false claims concerning public health. Like DDT, the EPA must be controlled - or banned!
Kenneth Haapala is Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)