Professors Fire Back at National Media Editorials
Claiming a chemical industry assault on the DDT ban in place in the United States since the 1960s, Borrello and Lorenz, members of the Pine River Superfund Citizen's Task Force and Alma College faculty, plan to submit their own editorial demonstrating the harmful effects on wildlife and the environment.
"I resent the vile scare tactics and harsh rhetoric employed by people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to further a point," says Borrello, Alma College coordinator of environmental studies. "It isn't our job to be poster boys for the dangers of DDT since there is much research and much data to support the claim. It is our job, however, to address misinformation when it is politically driven and subversive when it comes to people's health."
In addition to O'Reilly and Limbaugh, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have been calling for the de-listing of DDT as a banned chemical because it could save "millions" of lives lost in Africa to the mosquito-borne illness. The Journal has run numerous editorials with titles like "DDT Saves Lives" and "DDT Hysteria Has Killed Millions of People."
Borrello and Lorenz claim the editorials are written by think tank writers and organizations that receive funding from or lobby on behalf of the petroleum and chemical industries. The Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy, whose president and chairman wrote an editorial, received $70,000 from ExxonMobil in 2002. Critics say that Africa Fighting Malaria is actually a pressure group lobbying for increased use of DDT. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has been trying to include language in an appropriations bill to require increased DDT usage by the U.S. Agency for International Development in malaria-affected countries.
"First, there is the disinformation campaign developed by the pesticide industry against U.S. ratification of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants," says Lorenz, Reid-Knox Professor of History and professor of political science. "Even (President George) Bush has agreed with the Stockholm Convention and submitted it to the Senate. Second, there is fear that the results of this cynical lobbying campaign will undermine support for clean-up in St. Louis, where DDT is a prime pollutant."
DDT is the primary chemical being removed in the $100 million cleanup of the Pine River in St. Louis. The insecticide was one of the substances produced at the former Michigan Chemical Co. plant, one of the country's biggest Superfund sites.
Borrello believes there is a growing perception that environmentalists and the environmental movement have gone too far to the left and that things are not as bad as first assumed. "Reality is that political interests are attempting to convince Americans that things are much better than the 'wacky environmentalists' would have us believe when, in fact, on many fronts things are much worse. We are beginning to find the significant health effects that the populous are suffering because of chemical body burden related to the wanton release by industry and agriculture."
Lorenz says studies show DDT has been linked to a variety of conditions including endocrine disruption and neurological development impacts. DDT works against malaria, but only when used in public health emergencies. Greater and consistent use results in DDT-resistent insects. "We need to use potent pesticides sparingly to maintain their impact."
While the response is still in the draft stage, Borrello and Lorenz are trying to complete the final editorial before the DDT proponents' arguments become established in the minds of decision makers.
Posted: Fri, January 20th, 2006 at 2:59PM