DDT a problem of 30-50 years ago?

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Tue Aug 29 09:12:44 EDT 2000

I have been out of the country for a month so this topic has been
substantially rehashed by now. But there is a substantial peer-reviewed
literature on the relationship between DDT metabolites (DDE and DDD) and
egg-shell thinning and reproductive failure, primarily in ratores and
fish-eating birds (those higher on the food chain).

For those people who echo the tobacco industry's plaint that "there
isn't any proof that cigarette smoking causes cancer", I always respond
that "neither is there any doubt". 

I have another gripe---the amputation of the scientific literature prior
to about 1980 (when computerized searches kicked in). Much of the
peer-reviewed literature on DDT and avian reproduction was published

Mike Gochfeld

Doug Yanega wrote:
> Pat Foley wrote:
> >    But the main reason DDT is an environmental problem is its effects on bird
> >reproduction. Does Paul Cherubini wish to argue that bird populations are
> >unaffected by DDT exposure?
> Actually, he just posted evidence roughly to that effect, regarding the
> original DeWitt study on quail. This leaves those among us who are anti-DDT
> to come up with equal or superior citations (presumably with an opposite
> conclusion) if we are to persist in defense of our position. I, for one,
> will freely admit that I have never in my career actually seen any
> peer-reviewed literature on DDT effects, so what opinions I have are
> effectively based solely on decades-old hearsay and popular opinion. I'm
> sure I'm not alone in this, and I'm willing to reconsider, based on what
> evidence there actually may be (some of Paul's citations are compelling,
> others are not). Of course, there is the additional complication, if some
> of the citations he gives are to be believed, that there was a conspiracy
> to keep pro-DDT studies from being published. In other words, an objective
> conclusion about the danger of DDT may be impossible to obtain here,
> because we may have one of those ugly situations - which we must honestly
> admit *do* happen - where science and politics are too intertwined to
> separate one from the other. That makes it unlikely that either side is
> going to be able to present convincing enough evidence to "win" the debate
> (so I'm not even sure it will do us any good to prolong this, but...).
>         Accordingly, I'd politely request that further contributions to
> this thread, if any, restrict themselves to presentation and discussion of
> evidence from the primary literature, if at all possible. All else is
> hand-waving, on BOTH sides. Hopefully we can get past the catcalling phase
> quickly and move on.
> Peace,
> Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
> Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
> phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
>            http://insects.ucr.edu/staff/yanega.html
>   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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