Julie Borowski wants to bring back DDT

At first I thought Julie was trolling when I watched her video on why we should bring back DDT to combat Zika. Sadly, I don’t think she is, so yet again I shall have the honor of shooting down her argument. This is a whole new level of stupid tho.

For me, getting my facts straight is at the core. I will not post anything in any form argumenting something that I have no clue about. However, it seems Julie sets the standards much much lower. You should go watch the video here before you read on. Wearing a tin foil hat while watching is strongly recommended.

For those who have no clue what DDT is (like milennials, and Julie) it is an internationally banned pesticide. The name stands for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and it is produced by the reaction of chloral (CCl3CHO) with chlorobenzene (C6H5Cl) in the presence of a sulfuric acid catalyst. DDE and DDD are the two major metabolites and breakdown products.

It is an endocrine disruptor as well as a weak androgen receptor antagonist. For those of you that weren’t cool enough for school, that means it messes with your hormones, and that some components of DDT can be used by the body in place of estrogen. Disruption of the endocrine (hormone) system when an egg is fertilized may be associated with the development of ADD, learning disabilities, sexual development, cognitive- and brain development problems as well as multiple forms of cancer (breast, prostate, thyroid.)

But Julie is of the opinion that we should just ignore the facts, spray the world with DDT using crop dusters to kill all the bad stuff and then live happy ever after. Why? Because they are doing it in Africa and stuff, and Africa is okay! Right?

Well, not really. A study from 2007 conducted in Limpopo, South Africa found that “men in the sprayed homes had extremely high levels of DDT in their blood and that their semen volume and sperm counts were low.” Also, DDT is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t dissolve well in water but it does in fat. So, it binds to body fat as well as breast milk.

What is the mechanism behind DDT’s reputation as a bug killer then? For most insects, DDT opens up the sodium channels in the brain, causing neurons to fire at random leading to spasms and eventually death. I say most, as the extensive use of DDT in the past has lead to insects that are resistant to DDT. But it doesn’t only affect insects (and humans) tho. Around 1970, toxicologist David Peakall measured DDE levels in the eggs of the peregrine falcon and california condor and found that increased levels of DDE corresponded with thinner shells. It is also toxic to some fish and marine animals such as crayfish and sea shrimp.

As for us humans, looking at the research that has been done we seem to end up with lower semen quality, disruption in menstruation, duration of lactation and risk of early pregnancy loss to mention a few. Plus the endocrine issues mentioned above for pregnant women if they deliver. No conclusive answer exist yet on whether DDT causes cancer, but a 2007 study found that the risk for breast cancer was highly increased for women that was born before the golden days of DDT (1931), and who had high levels of DDT in their blood in 1963.

In my opinion, it is not worth putting humans and the environment at risk to defeat a virus such as Zika. Especially considering it was first isolated in 1947, and not counting the 2007 Micronesia outbreak or 2015 Brazil outbreak, the numbers of infected annually is generally low. Zika is not new, and it hasn’t wiped us out yet!

Also, to make sure everybody gets their facts straight, the US didn’t ban DDT worldwide overnight in some wacky conspiracy. The US effectively banned it around 1972, as scientists were sounding the alarm. Before that, Hungary, Norway, Sweden and West Germany had banned it and by 1991 at least 26 countries had done the same. And with the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2004, over 170 countries agreed to restricting the use of DDT to vector control.

It is still used in locations around the world, and more research need to be done, but with the effects on humans, animals and environment likely being greater from DDT than from Zika we need to keep searching for a better solution to the problem. Doing a Google search is all it takes to find that DDT isn’t the only effective solution against Zika.