- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

The Bush administration undertook some of its own disaster recovery last week by increasing U.S. aid to tsunami victims from $15 million to $350 million. Much more could, and should, be done for the health and economic development of the tsunami victims and other developing nations’ populations.

The president could start with the stroke of his pen — and it wouldn’t cost U.S. taxpayers a cent. All President Bush need do is to withdraw the U.S. from the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs treaty).

Tentatively agreed to in May 2001 by 90-plus nations, including the United States, the POPs treaty is intended as a way by which the United Nations and other international bureaucrats can control the use of industrial chemicals. The treaty became effective in May 2004 after France became the 50th nation to ratify it formally.

The Bush administration has endorsed the treaty, but the Senate has not yet ratified it. So the United States is not yet bound by its terms, which would have deadly consequences for much of the developing world. The POPs treaty bans or restricts use of 12 targeted chemicals claimed to cause human-health effects, including cancer, and to harm wildlife.

One chemical targeted by the POPs treaty is the insecticide DDT — which, as discussed in earlier columns, was banned by the United States in 1972 based on junk science.

The POPs treaty limits how much DDT nations may store; how they can acquire it; and when and how they can use it. These rules will increase the cost of, and delay access to, the only effective defense against the mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

“The POPs treaty could virtually eliminate the use of DDT, perhaps the most affordable and effective pesticide and repellant in existence, ” said Richard Tren of the Africa Fighting Malaria, a not-for-profit health advocacy group based in South Africa and the U.S. that focuses on the political economy of diseases and disease control in developing countries.

The World Health Organization estimates malaria kills millions of people yearly and cuts African nations’ GDP nations 1.3 percent, with $12 billion in economic losses. The POPs treaty will only continue such health and economic devastation.

Though none of the 12 chemicals now under the POPs treaty are now manufactured in the U.S., Congress and the chemical industry favor U.S. participation in the treaty because, they claim, it will give them a say in future additions and modifications to the list of banned chemicals.

Mr. Bush endorsed the POPs treaty in May 2001, after he pulled the U.S. out of the international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, leading some to suspect his endorsement was intended to earn a reprieve on environmental issues with Europeans, Democrats and environmentalists.

Regardless if these reasons are valid, they will nevertheless help doom millions to death and economic hardship. Though U.S. rejection of the treaty won’t stop it from taking effect worldwide, as long as the U.S. doesn’t participate, hope will remain alive for increased lifesaving use of DDT.

The ongoing malaria catastrophe with its death toll in the millions has not, and in all likelihood, will not likely get even a fraction of the media coverage devoted to the recent tsunamis — though its costs are orders of magnitude higher.

Fighting malaria by promoting DDT use is not nearly as glamorous as publicly pledging millions in tsunami disaster-aid or photo-ops in devastated areas. Advocating DDT, regrettably, requires much political courage. But that would be about the only cost for an effort to save millions of lives and livelihoods.

Clarification: The U.K. branches of two environmental groups, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, cited in last week’s column have disputed their quotations in a letter (below) to the Independent, the British newspaper that originally reported them. That correction made, the column’s basic thrust — that environmentalists seek to exploit the tragedy — is unchanged.

Letter to the Independent: Sir: On 23 December — before the earthquake and tsunami we were asked by the Independent to comment on the dramatic increase in insurance claims resulting from hurricanes, droughts, floods and other early impacts of climate change. Our quotes appeared in an article on 27 December, as part of your coverage of the tsunami. For the record, we would like to make absolutely clear that earthquakes are not a result of climate change and we have never sought to make any link.

STEPHEN TINDALE, executive director, Greenpeace U.K.

TONY JUNIPER, executive director, Friends of the Earth, London

publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and is the author of “Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams” (Cato Institute, 2001).

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