By Alan Caruba
I have never been able to understand why people have no problem taking drugs for medicinal purposes—frequently never reading the listing of side effects or the warning that taking too much might kill them, but seem to have fits every time some nitwit self-appointed think tank announces that a pesticide poses a threat to all life on Earth.
This is how one of the greatest pesticides ever invented, DDT, got banned. It had nothing to do with its beneficial effect, i.e., saving millions of lives from malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases, and everything to do with the fabricated “science” put forth by Rachel Carlson in her book, “Silent Spring.”
Since 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has done more to remove from use some of the best pesticides ever invented for the protection of property from termites to one all-purpose pesticide that was applied with nothing more toxic than water!
So, naturally, the July 31 announcement by the Center for Public Integrity that they had discovered a vast conspiracy to keep everyone from finding out that pyrethrins and pyrethroids were responsible for 1,030 deaths out of more than 300,000,000 Americans in 2007 must be analyzed as virtually worthlessness.
Countless people die every year from drowning, bicycle accidents, and dozens of other commonplace causes, but the Center is not interested in comparisons.
Nor is the Center interested in delving into whether the deaths attributed to the use of pyrethrins and pyrethroids involved people with serious asthma or other lung afflictions. Some rare allergies might well have triggered a lethal response, but just as surely as people allergic to peanuts can die from ingesting them, a particular and unusual susceptibility to some kinds of chemicals will account for some deaths.
It must also be noted that some people use pesticides for the purpose of committing suicide. Among the deaths noted by the Center, they too are unidentified.
The usual unidentified implications of those deaths are further magnified by the Center’s statement that “scientists are still unsure of the long-term neurotoxicity of pyrethrins and pyrethroids, particularly among children and those susceptible to allergies.” When your intent is to frighten people, referencing “children” is always a component. And, of course, this is an entirely speculative observation.
In point of fact, pyrethrins (a natural compound derived from an extract of chrysanthemum flowers) or pyrethroids (man-made synthetic compounds), are among the most benign pesticides that either pest management professionals or the public can use. They are an irritant to most insect pests and, while it may not kill them, it will cause them to avoid areas where it is applied. They affect the nervous system of insects.
A December 1998 study released by the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (Oregon State University) notes that, “Scientists have no data from work-related, accidental poisonings, or epidemiological studies that indicate whether or not pyrethrins are likely to cause cancer in humans.” The same holds true for data related to reproductive problems or birth defects. There is no mention of any deaths attributed to them.
The potential of dying as the result of exposure to pyrethrins or pyrethroids is very small. Thus, deaths attributed to these pesticides are circumstantial at best. It is so small even the Center acknowledges that, “the EPA does not require product warning labels cautioning consumers with allergies to the dangers associated with pyrethrins and pyrethroids products.” The FDA requires label notification on shampoos that contain them. If people were dying from shampooing, that would be news!
In order to come up with its announcement, the Center had to make “more than a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests” before “crunching the data.”
“Crunching” indeed! You probably have better odds of being killed by a bolt of lightning than from any threat posed by these particular pesticides.
One of the earliest “threats” that the environmental movement cut its teeth upon were pesticides. Now that “global warming” is being discredited on a daily basis, we will probably see more of these pusillanimous announcements as they return to pesticides as a go-to scare tactic.
In the end, you have a choice between the diseases insect and rodent pests transmit and the vast amount of property damage they inflict annually or the proper, careful use of pesticides of every description. All must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and that process usually costs several millions of dollars.
As for the Center for Public Integrity (what does that mean?) the watchword is caveat emptor, buyer beware.