If you have bedbugs, thank Al Gore

Bedbugs, those tiny indestructible creatures hiding in your bedding and couch just waiting to sneak up on you at night to feast on your blood, are making a comeback especially on the east coast. Not an indication of poverty or lack of cleanliness, the little bloodsuckers have been spotted in the buildings of such elite liberal bastions as the New York Times and Vanity Fair in addition to some of New York's finest hotels and apartments in the most expensive neighborhoods as well as homes, offices and other buildings all over the region.

But why, after years of relative disappearance, their sudden resurgence? Lena H. Sun of the Washington Post delicately slides.

A common household pest for centuries, bedbugs were virtually eradicated in the 1940s and '50s by the widespread use of DDT. That insecticide was banned in the 1970s, and the bugs developed resistance to chemicals that replaced it.

DDT was banned under the influence of Rachel Carson's 1960s book Silent Spring, the founding bible for the nascent eco and environmental movement. Advocating the now discredited theory that insecticides, especially DDT, which wiped common pests destroying crops, moved up the food chain into the birds, ultimately killing them, budding environmentalists lobbied vigorously until its use was prohibited. That was one of the earliest environmental victories in contemporary times.

While unpleasant, sometimes producing an itchy rash, bedbug bites are not fatal. But malaria is. Carried by mosquitoes, malaria was the scourge of what was once referred to as the Third World, killing millions, incapacitating millions more. DDT effectively wiped out untold billions of the malaria caring mosquitoes, saving millions of lives. But...not satisfied with eliminating DDT in their relatively healthy "developed" world, the environmentalists worked for and ultimately succeeded banning DDT world wide.

"Saving" the environment or killing people? Which should it be? The enviro imperialists went with the former, piously proclaiming mosquito netting, draining the water where mosquitoes breed and gentler, alternative ways of killing mosquitos would be just as effective without harming the environment. Wrong! While these methods should certainly be part of a program to destroy mosquitoes and conquer malaria it seemed that nothing was as effective at killing masses of malaria carrying mosquitoes as DDT. No DDT = more malaria.

Over 10 years ago, a group of doctors and scientists affiliated with the Malaria Foundation International sent
a letter t o diplomats negotiating banning DDT, begging for the continued production of DDT. While agreeing that DDT does have unfavorable side effects so research on finding more effective insecticides without comparable side effects is important, presently DDT, while used carefully, is the most effective tool against the deadly mosquitoes. Banning its use presently is unethical, immoral--condoning mass murder essentially--as other insecticides aren't as powerful, the mosquitoes flourish, ultimately killing more people.

Why do we need to worry about malaria in eliminating DDT?

Malaria is responsible for about 500 million clinical cases of disease and about 2.7 million deaths a year, mostly those of children under five and pregnant women. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, malaria destroys 70% more years of life than do all cancers in all developed countries combined. It therefore follows that even a tiny loss in the efficiency of a national malaria control program, occasioned by the loss of DDT or otherwise, would result in a tremendous number of additional deaths from the disease.

The World Health Organization calls DDT, "the insecticide of choice because it is both very cheap and effective."

What happens when DDT is not used?

Data from the Pan-American Health Organization show that where South American countries stopped spraying houses with DDT, their rates of malaria increased, often dramatically. Conversely, the single country to increase DDT house spraying (Ecuador) was also the only one to significantly reduce its rate of malaria (by 61% overall).

But...but...what about DDT's health damages to other people and the holy, delicate environment?

Tearing apart an anti DDT study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the letter carefully points out

WWF also misleads by concealing the fact that a much greater number of studies contradict its position than support it,


In summary, we would advise developing countries to be skeptical of claims that DDT is destroying the health of their people. Sweeping aside the unfortunate scientific misrepresentations, at worst there are small health risks, and very large health benefits to DDT house spraying. We therefore have no doubt that it would be a terrible error to eliminate DDT, which probably saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year from malaria.

The debate on this issue continues of course. As does the research for improved, safer insecticides.

In the meantime, if you kiss a bedbug (ugh!) or a mosquito (ugh!) and it turns into Al Gore (eek!) do remind him that people's health and lives are at stake because of his radical and unproven environmental theories.

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