Reader Disagrees With AP Science Report

To The Reader’s Forum:

The Associated Press article “Court Orders Ban on Harmful Pesticide” in the August 10 Post-Journal is an example of monumentally bad science reporting. In fact, I doubt it was written by a science reporter or had any pretensions of being a science report.

By definition insecticides are “harmful” to insects but less so to mammals. Repeated and continued exposure to chlorpyrifos apparently can be harmful, especially to children. We are exposed to harmful and poisonous substances both manmade and natural constantly, many of them far more dangerous than chlorpyrifos. By far, most of the proven and known harmful effects of chlorpyrifos occur in Asia where applicators are ill informed and careless and where it is often used in suicides.

Chlorpyrifos is part of the large organophosphate insecticide family. These were introduced many years ago to replace the chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides because they are far less persistent in the environment. This was deemed more important than the fact they are usually more acutely toxic than the chlorinated hydrocarbons. Even so, they are still far less toxic and dangerous than common older insecticides such as nicotine and arsenic.

Although the toxic action of organophosphates is the same for all, the actual toxicity in mammals differs widely from one compound to another. The reference to chemical warfare agents in the last paragraph is totally irrelevant and deliberately misleading as is the mention of “Nazi Germany,” The ideology of a chemical’s inventor is as irrelevant as his favorite sports team. The lachrymose, garment rending, hyperventilated, sackcloth and ashes quotes from the National Resource Council and the California and New York attorneys general — O, the children! The sacred children! — are vote grubbing and careerist moral exhibitionism. Hello out there all you scared soccer mom voters who never passed high school chemistry.

Norman Carlson