History suggests polio was caused by pesticides – then eradicated by their decline

One of the most common arguments used to defend vaccinations is the claim that vaccines eradicated polio and smallpox. But an investigative review by Jeffry John Aufderheide explains why this claim is untrue and why pesticides may have been responsible for spurring these diseases.

Text: Jonathan Benson, staff writer, June 25, 2012

As part of a trivia series on polio, Aufderheide cites several studies showing that the widespread use of chemical pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, and heptachlor following World War II, actual exacerbated viral disease outbreaks across the United States.

On a visual graph, it is clearly seen that the production and use of pesticides throughout the mid-20th century is directly correlated to polio outbreaks, including the worst polio epidemic in known history, which occurred in 1952.

polio pesticides DDT

According to a report compiled by the Secretary of the Interior that was presented before the 85th Congress back in 1958, polio really only became a problem after the 1940s, when chemical companies began to produce large amounts of DDT, heptachlor, dieldrin, tetraethyl pyrophosphate (TEPP), malathion, benzene hexachloride (BHC) and other pesticide chemicals for use on agricultural crops. Prior to that time, polio was not nearly as virulent or problematic as many people believe it was.

As DDT and other pesticides were eventually phased out, cases of polio also began to decline, which suggests that vaccines may not have been primarily responsible for eradicating polio. Improvements in sanitation, which are hardly ever mentioned by mainstream health authorities, also played a major role in eradicating polio.

Text: Jonathan Benson, staff writer, June 25, 2012

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