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Jan 28, 2014 10:33 AM

DDT and Alzheimers

DDT lingering in the environment has been liked to Alzheimers.

A constant reminder that choices society make regarding the environment, can have unexpected effects, long after and unexpectedly.

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  1. DDT also saved tens of thousands of lives at the time with mosquito control. It was better and less toxic then some of the other pestiscides used at the time. We can always judge with revisionist eyes, but when you live in tough times, you have to make tough choices.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Antilope

      It's not about judging with revisionist eyes, it's about actions having unintended consequences.

    2. Alzheimer's Disease was first described in 1906. DDT was invented in 1939.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        Honestly and respectfully, what is your point? Cancer predates cigarettes.

        1. re: GH1618

          It's considered a possible contributor, not a one and only cause. And links, or associations are not proof of causation, but they raise important questions to investigate further and prove or disprove the connection.

        2. Oh, not again. Yet another pointless argument over very thin data that is insubstantial and inconsequential at best.

          The article itself is full of waffle words like "may" and "preliminary" and "further study" and "link" rather than anything real. If you actually read the article, you'll see it points out that "age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s" and "it’s too soon call DDT a “smoking gun” for causing Alzheimer’s" and "only head trauma has shown robust evidence as an environmental risk factor for the disease" and "These conclusions should be considered as preliminary until there is independent confirmation."

          Once again, kiddies, repeat after me: "Covariance does not imply correlation; correlation does not imply causality." Unless you truly understand this, you are likely to go around proving that Aspirin causes headaches.

          One of the worst things they ever did was ban DDT. It's saved millions of lives and continues to do so in other countries by nearly eradicating malaria and other virulent insect-borne diseases.

          17 Replies
          1. re: acgold7

            You're wrong about DDT. The harm from DDT was thoroughly documented and there is a consensus now that we should not be putting persistent poisons into the environment. Science has found better ways to control insects and combat disease.

            1. re: GH1618

              Consensus. Hm. With all due respect, a while ago the consensus was that aluminum pots and pans caused Alzheimer's. Oh yeah, and that dietary Cholesterol raised serum Cholesterol. And that Blood Cholesterol was related to the amount of goop clogging your arteries. All now pretty much scientifically debunked.

              And the current consensus is still, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, is that eating fat makes you fat, and that high-carb, low-fat diets are still the best way to lose weight and keep it off, and that you can exercise your way to getting thin, and that grains and cereals and starches are good for you.

              And oh yeah, that even though the planet has been getting warmer since the last Ice Age, it's all our fault and we can stop it if we wish.

              Whenever I hear the word consensus, all I can think of is group-think and I automatically go the other way to look for more actual facts and evidence.

              Of course we shouldn't foul and despoil our environment permanently. Only a crazy person would happily embrace this concept. But as in all things, this is a delicate balance between costs and benefits.

              1. re: acgold7

                I don't recall consensus about aluminum, just a suspicion and appropriate investigation that disproved the hypothesis.

                Never a causation consensus.

                1. re: mcf

                  It was certainly a consensus among the public. The landfills were full of discarded aluminum cookware.

                  My point is that just because everyone believes something doesn't make it true, and you more than anyone here have shown great examples of this in the battles you fight daily to correct the ignorance of the "common knowledge."

                  1. re: acgold7

                    I think you may be diluting "consensus" to the point of meaninglessness.

                    Just saynzall. :-)

                    1. re: mcf

                      You may be right. I think these days, consensus mostly *is* meaningless and the word itself is enough reason to doubt the accepted wisdom of the masses.

                      1. re: acgold7

                        You usually want to identify the group reaching consensus and what its guidelines are.

                        The word isn't meaningless when used in the proper context, as more than anecdote.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Not to beat a dead horse, prolong the subthread or go further OT, but what the hell, I will anyway:

                          You mean like the brilliant scientists who analyzed the Framingham Study that led to every common consensus regarding fat, carbs and nutrition still lovingly embraced by most of the so-called health professionals today? ;-)

                          1. re: acgold7

                            I didn't say consensus was right or wrong. Only that there are criteria for establishing what it is.

                            IME, they're crap, at least in medicine. They serve industries, not human health.

                            1. re: mcf

                              Accepted and agreed. But in the context of this subthread, when it was started what seems like centuries ago, it was used to mean that not only everyone (colloquially) agrees but that it's therefore correct. So that's what I was railing against.

                              And then GH was wise enough to post another article showing the other side so I have nothing really to rail about. For the next five minutes.

                    2. re: acgold7

                      "The landfills were full ..."

                      That just isn't so. You are just writing off the top of your head, and it's hyperbole. Maybe you and all of your friends threw aluminum cookware in the trash, but there are a hundred million households in the US alone, and there must be a billion pieces of aluminum cookware in those households which were not discarded. That's not counting those in restaurants, which use mostlt aluminum cookware.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        "The landfills were full"

                        Please tell us that you didn't take that comment .... literally.


                        1. re: Uncle Bob

                          I not only didn't take it literally, I didn't take it all seriously as an attempt to support the entirely fictitious notion that a significant number of people from the US, or anywhere else, threw out their aluminum cookware believing that it was unhealthy. People get a false impression of the significance of such things as anti-aluminum cranks because they make so much noise.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              OK, but acgold already conceded the point up thread. :-)

                    3. re: acgold7

                      No, there was never consensus regarding aluminum as a contributor to Alzheimer's disease. That was always a flaky hypothesis promoted by small, but highly vocal, minorities.

                  2. re: acgold7

                    By the time DDT was banned, many insects had evolved resistance to it. it had lost much of its usefulness, and had proven to be very destructive. It has not been (legally) used since then, and there has been talk of bringing it back for limited use in Africa, spraying walls to kill mosquitoes that land there. Problem is, once it's out, it will be diverted, and the problems will begin again. permethrin is also quite effective, and is environmentally far more benign.

                  3. Media tend to play these stories up and laymen tend to draw conclusions prematurely, whereas researchers are usually more cautious. For example, this statement by one of the authors of the report:

                    "An important next step will be to extend these studies to additional subjects and replicate the findings in independent laboratories," Levey says. (from Emory News Center)

                    And this statement from the director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association:

                    "This requires further study, but it does give us valuable information that will help better ask future research questions," Snyder said.

                    A "link" is not proof of causation, and it is normal for the first report of a correlation to be merely the first step in a line of inquiry which will require much further work. At this point, we don't know if the correlation will hold up at all. The question I have based on the abstract (the full paper is behind a paywall) is how the cohorts were selected. DDT was so widely used in the South that it would not be surprising if most people who spent their lives in that area had high levels of the residues in their bodies. The control group must be taken from the same population, and it is not clear from the abstract that it was.

                    As for DDT, we already knew that it was a poison and a neurotoxin specifically. But Alzheimer's Disease predates the use of any poisons in agriculture by a long time, so even if DDT is found to be an environmental factor, it can't be said to be the cause of it. Anyway, DDT has been banned for decades.

                    I agree that (chemicals) "can have unexpected effects" on the environment. That's pretty well understood these days, which is why we have an Environmental Protection Agency, a DDT ban, and far more stringent regulation of pesticides and other agricultural and industrial chemicals than we had half a century ago.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: GH1618

                      ""An important next step will be to extend these studies to additional subjects and replicate the findings in independent laboratories," Levey says. (from Emory News Center)

                      And this statement from the director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association:

                      "This requires further study, but it does give us valuable information that will help better ask future research questions," Snyder said."

                      Absolutely. The questions are worth asking. I haven't seen anyone point to it as causation proven. It's not, yet, if it is there at all.

                    2. I'm still stuck in that time warp where aluminum in pots and pans and deodorant caused Alzheimers, guess I'd better get up to speed ;-)