An Alphabet Soup of Chemical Myths

An Alphabet Soup of Chemical Myths
April 1, 2008

The True Story of DDT, PCB, and Dioxin
By Przemystaw Mastalerz
Wydawnictwo Chemiczne, 2005
226 pages, $20, ISBN-13: 9788390577654


Environmental advocacy groups have spared no effort to create the impression that organochlorines are extremely resistant to degradation and thus difficult to remove from the environment.

Contrary to these beliefs, there is plentiful evidence that biodegradation of these substances is widespread everywhere.

Moreover, in the quantities commonly found in the environment, organochlorines are not hazardous to human health.

Scares Support Activist Agendas

Przemystaw Mastalerz has taught organic chemistry at the Technical University in Warsaw, Poland for 40 years. During this time he has become aware of the tremendous misinformation affecting public opinion regarding organochlorines such as DDT, dioxin, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Mastalerz tells us, "environmentalists rarely mention and always belittle the degradation of DDTs and dioxins because natural processes which remove toxins from the environment help to dispel the horror which in public opinion surrounds environmental contaminants. The existence of their scare-mongering organizations would be much more difficult to justify in a society free of these horrors."

No Danger to Humans

The author is adamant in his argument that overzealous environmentalists reject scientific opinions whenever these opinions do not agree with their canons of faith. He is right. They ignore, for example, all the data proving DDT is not a danger to humans ... and that it is, in fact, the most effective defense against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Similarly, PCBs, which were used for many years as heat transfer agents in transformers and capacitors, have been proven to be without consequence to either the environment or human health. Nevertheless, the drumbeat of fear over these compounds continues.

Dioxins, which are created in high-temperature combustion of organic materials, have long been demonized as being deadly to humans. This book clearly outlines the evidence that the only human impact is little more than a skin rash called chloracne.

Moreover, dioxins are not a strange creation of human industrial activity--they have been found in clays identified as being 40 million years old. Unfortunately, it appears it will take a long time before people accept the fact that dioxins were always with us, and abandon the idea that they are exclusively manmade, hazardous chemicals.

Myths Dispelled

The True Story of DDT, PCB, and Dioxin powerfully documents these largely ignored facts. The author does not shy away from challenging the scientifically unsupportable general beliefs and official politics reported uncritically in the media.

Until now, the relevant facts have been buried deep among library shelves that were not readily accessible to the public. Their exposure in this book may help demystify another unsubstantiated environmental scare story.


Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (lehr@heartland.org) is science director for The Heartland Institute.