A recent Reuters story reveals that the United Nations’ World Health Organization research arm International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that DDY probably causes cancer with evidence linking the insecticide to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), testicular cancer and liver cancer. While reviewing a variety of agricultural chemicals it classified DDT as probably carcinogenic to humans. DDT was used in the period following the mid-1940’s as a means to control malaria via mosquito extermination but its uses were mostly outlawed during the 1970’s. Though the IARC said the transmission of the pesticide is through food, it is still used in Africa to curb malaria spreading under limited and controlled conditions.
I have no doubt that DDT can be carcinogenic. However, it should be stressed that the pesticide probably causes cancer. What is left out of the reporting is under what conditions people can contract cancer. However, in 2011 the World Health Organization conducted a study involving continuous exposure of humans to DDT by amounts much larger than the average stage of about 30 micrograms a day. The research failed to show any convincing evidence of patterns of associations between DDT and cancer incidence or mortality. Many more studies have also been conducted where volunteers were exposed to very high DDT levels in the hundreds or even thousands higher than normal and showed no increase in cancer rates.
The World Health Organization is doing its due diligence to ensure people are aware of the potential to contract cancer and I am sure it would take many years of exposure before that would happen. The WHO’s remarks should not be taken as proof that DDT causes cancer. In one study there were indications of DDT causing cancer in mice but it was tested on other animals and the results were not conclusive. When it comes to pesticides, vaccines or even fossil fuels what is involved is a trade off where people take a small risk since the benefits outweigh them. South Africa being the prime example.
Environmentalists hate pesticides because they enable humans to manipulate nature so we can not only fend off insect infestations in order to grow more crops but also defend ourselves from bugs that transmit sickness like mosquitoes carrying malaria. Environmentalists have had a fixation on pesticides since the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring that condemned DDT. It’s obvious environmentalists demonize pesticides and lobby for pesticide bans as a means to an end to force humans to alter our diet or way of life so as to conform to their wishes. In the end, plants and insects maybe all that is left for humans to eat if the greens get their way.