Friday, January 9, 2009

“What’s Bugging You?”

by Harry L Katz

FEAR occupies an inordinate part of our time. Fear of more illness, fear of the stock market, world politics, our children’s welfare, and fear of the insects and other pests, etc, etc. The universal fear that I would like to discuss is the fear of perceived danger of the toxicants that we use to control the pests.

Living in an area that was once a semi tropical swamp, we have perennial invasions of many pest species. We kill a colony of ants in the apartment. But another colony comes in to take its place. Most residents call the pest management people and wait for service. Others are too impatient to wait for service and resort to using sprays., disregarding a subconscious fear of the danger of toxicants.

Over sixty years ago, fear of toxicants was indeed real. That was before the BC (Before Carson) Era, and before the Environmental Protection Agency cancelled the registrations of most toxicants. I know of one case in which a woman disposed of her obnoxious husband by buying a tube in a hardware store of “Electric Paste” which contained phosphoric acid rat bait. She squeezed some of it into his fourth glass of beer… and he died. The EPA has since removed all such toxicants from the retail market. In the process, however, they did of good job of overkill in warning of the dangers of all toxicants in our environment.

This legislation all began after Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring,” when a Congressional Committee was appointed to investigate the hazards of pesticides. A good friend of mine, Dr Carroll Weil, was called to serve on that committee. He was president of the Toxicology Society of America and a Fellow at the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. The other members of the committee were all anti-pesticide people.

The committee decided to ban the use of DDT because they said it was carcinogenic. Dr Weill explained that the tests used to reach this conclusion were badly flawed. The committee argued late into the night, but Carroll would not agree to a unanimous decision to ban DDT. Finally, the committee promised that an addendum by Weill could be published, and he gave up. This proved to be the death knell of millions of natives of third world countries who died of malaria from mosquitoes. DDT that had prevented these deaths had been taken off the market.

One of the “Myth Conceptions” that plagues the mindset of the general public, as well as various regulatory communities, is that a low dose of a toxicant is just as bad as a gross dose that can cause a tumor, benign or cancerous. If this were true, according to Bruce Ames of the University of California, at Berkley, we should not eat carrots, celery, parsley, mushrooms, cabbage, brussels sprouts, mustard, orange and grapefruit juices, pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, raspberry or pineapple. All these foods contain natural toxicants that cause cancer in rats or mice when they are tested at the same gross levels that are used to test pesticides. Dr Ames further claims that the natural level of toxicants in these foods is far higher than the trace residues in treated foods.

So, for those of you who are overly concerned about the pesticides that are on the market, all registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, you can remove pesticides from your “worry list“.





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1 comment:

Ed Darrell said...

I hadn't heard of a Congressional commmittee before. Do you have more details? Year? Congressional people involved? Name and call number of final report?

Thanks.