This video from ReasonTV talks about DDT's bad public reputation.
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Nick Gillespie: Hi! I’m Nick Gillespie for reason.tv and today, we are talking with Donald Roberts and Richard Tren, authors of the new book, “The Excellent Powder: DDT's Political and Scientific History.” Thanks for joining us. Richard Tren: Thanks for having us. Donald Roberts: Thank you. Nick Gillespie: What is excellent about DDT? Richard Tren: DDT is a chemical that has saved hundreds of millions of lives and it has protected billions of people from the threat of insect-borne diseases and what could be more excellent than that? And it’s done so without harming human health. Nick Gillespie: Now, this is clearly not to receive wisdom or well I guess it’s not to receive scientific wisdom unfortunately and it’s not the popular understanding of DDT. We know DDT destroys eagle’s legs and makes people sprout extra arms and thing so, what’s behind of this juncture? Richard Tren: This juncture basically is a product of fear campaigns that were started back in the 60s and they have been continued to present time, fear campaigns that link to potential, our theoretical harmed wildlife as well as the radical harmed human health. Those harms simply don’t exist if you look carefully at the scientific record but the perception exists in the minds of the public. Nick Gillespie: One of the flashpoints for that was Rachel Carson in the 60s with Silent Spring, right? That’s where the kind of modern environmental movement rose out of that and she fingered DDT and other kinds of insecticides and chemicals at use. Is there any signs, I mean you’re saying that DDT does not harm the environment or does not harm human beings. Donald Roberts: Saying that, DDT does not inflict severe harm on wildlife or the environment and it does not inflict severe harm on human health. When you look at the way DDT is used in malaria control where it’s sprayed on house walls, not in the environment, not broadly distributed in the environment then it becomes literally unavailable for doing the kinds of harm that many of the campaigners against the use of insecticides in public health claim. Nick Gillespie: What is the legal status of DDT in throughout the world and it’s most needed in the developing world, right? Richard Tren: Right, DDT has been banned in most places for use in agriculture. It still remains available for use in public health and under the Stockholm Convention which is a UN Convention to ban persistent organic pollutants. There is an exception for use in public health, so it still can be used. However, there is a deadline that has been set by 2017 where the UN Stockholm Convention are halting all production of DDT and then elimination completely by 2020, so no more production up to 2017. So, it still can be used. What’s interesting and what’s been happening over the past few years is that even though the US Government is now funding DDT through a very good malaria control program, the growing regulations on how you can use these insecticides has made it more difficult to use, less available and more expensive to store, transport and use. And so, regulations are kind of pricing out of the market and there are few producers now. One of the big producers was China and they in compliance with UN Stockholm Convention have ceased production. Nick Gillespie: How many lives could, you know are more robust use of DDT save? Richard Tren: It could have a huge impact on the amount of disease that we have in the developing countries today and the reason we know that for absolute certainty is that we already have a history of how effective it can be. By 1969 when the global eradication program was brought to an end, it had literally freed roughly a billion people from endemic disease. That was DDT and DDT alone and so, we have that history. We know it can be very, very effective that is not being used. Nick Gillespie: We’re talking about billions of people. Donald Roberts: Yes. Nick Gillespie: And there are no easily available alternatives or— Richard Tren: There
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