WASHINGTON -- The pesticide DDT would have saved millions of lives had it not been banned 20 years ago, a group of scientists said Thursday, only a day after researchers reported the chemical increases cancer risk in humans.
Four scientists held a news conference at which they accused environmentalists of 'genocide' by creating unwarranted fear about DDT and keeping the product from use to control malaria and other insect- borne diseases.
They claimed that bird populations actually increased where DDT was in use and that a person even could drink the chemical.
Patented in Switzerland in 1940, DDT was first used in the United States in 1942. Although it was banned for use in America in 1972 after the Environmental Protection Agency determined DDT was harmful, it was still being produced here as recently as 1985. It still is found in many U.S. hazardous waste sites, landfills and dumps.
DDT is currently used in the Third World to control mosquitos, flies and lice, which spread malaria, typhus, typhoid fever and cholera.
Edward Remmers of the American Council on Science and Health, an organization which tells consumers that pesticide residues pose no significant health risk, said, 'There is no evidence that DDT causes harm to humans when intended.'
The ban also increases AIDS risk, he said, because malaria-spreading mosquitoes flourish without DDT in parts of Africa. 'In many cases children are going into hospitals with malaria and coming out with AIDS' because African hospitals do not have safe blood supplies, Remmers said.
Remmers was joined by entomologist William Hazeltine, entomology Professor J. Gordon Edwards of San Jose State University and biophysics Professor Thomas Jukes of the University of California, Berkeley.
'We continue to be victimized daily by untruthful propaganda by organizations whose major business is the accumulation of money and power and unholy genocide in underdeveloped countries throughout the tropics,' said Edwards.
The panel said environmentalists who favored the ban on DDT supported 'genocide' because one to two million people die each year from diseases that 'could easily be controlled through the use of DDT.'
On Wednesday, researchers reported that they have the first clear evidence that heavy exposure to the insecticide DDT substantially increases the risk of pancreas cancer in humans.
The study was conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the University of Southern California School of Medicine and reported in the latest issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.