Rachel Carson's deadly Summer

Posted: Aug 15, 2002 12:00 AM
Usually, it is difficult to pin blame on a single source for the spread of a disease. No one is to blame for the worldwide growth of cancer. Many different people and organizations share the blame for the current AIDS situation. But in the case of West Nile Virus, there is a single source that should be blamed. She's a heroine to leftists around the world, but it' s her fault that the dangerous virus is slowly reaching across the United States, leaving death in its wake. The person who should be blamed is Rachel Carson. In 1962, Carson's book "Silent Spring" appeared on the world scene. A hysterical attack on the pesticide DDT, the book caused a sensation in the United States, hitting the New York Times best-seller list. Carson claimed that DDT constituted a major risk to human health, as well as severely damaging the reproductive processes of certain animals. In 1970, largely in response to her fear mongering, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Almost immediately, the EPA restricted the production of DDT and banned its use on American soil. The impact of the U.S. slowdown in DDT production reached far beyond our borders. People in the Third World felt it most. Before the U.S. crackdown on DDT, the "miracle pesticide" had been a cheap and effective way of killing mosquitoes in underdeveloped countries. Since mosquitoes transmit diseases like malaria and West Nile Virus, DDT use helped impede the outbreak of malaria, thereby reducing the death rate. The American Council on Science and Health estimates that DDT saved 100 million lives in the two decades before it was banned in the United States. The World Health Organization says that 30 million to 60 million people have died of malaria since the 1970s. Most of those deaths would have been prevented if DDT had been available. Until now, Third World deaths due to lack of DDT didn't affect us here at home. We could ban DDT and be fine -- our geography and affluence allowed us to easily use different pesticides. But with the outbreak of West Nile Virus on our shores, Rachel Carson's deadly work is finally beginning to hit home. West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans from birds infected with the disease by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes bite the birds, become carriers of the virus and then bite humans and other birds, which are infected with the virus. If, as seems most likely, the spread of the virus is not a terrorist incident, then the virus was caused by natural processes -- the migration of birds infected with the disease. And so, Rachel Carson's fight against DDT has come home to roost. If the United States had continued production of DDT on a global scale, West Nile Virus could have been stopped in the Third World, at least delaying its trek across the Atlantic. The goal of the environmentalists was to decrease pesticide use in the United States. Now, Louisiana is calling for the Air Force to spray pesticides across the state. This will surely become common practice if West Nile Virus spreads. What now, environmentalists? West Nile Virus is changing the American way of life. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that we stay indoors during dawn, dusk and early evening, and never leave the house without being covered in DEET, a bug repellent. And environmentalists are working against the use of DEET. Perhaps the best label for Rachel Carson and her cohorts is one of unintentional bioterrorist. A bioterrorist is defined as one who uses biological weapons, such as diseases, to purposely murder civilians. Carson surely did not want people to die for lack of DDT, but that is the unalterable result. DDT could have saved millions of lives. Because of Carson, it did not. Neglect is tantamount to murder when human life is at stake. Americans listened to the wild accusations of Rachel Carson. They took her advice at face value. And they will pay the price for "Silent Spring's" hysteria all through this long, hot summer.