Soon the spring-summer mass advertising campaign for the Shell no-pest strip will be urging consumers to hang these silent insect hunters in their homes.
Don’t buy — unless, that is, you believe a product which vaporizes a nerve poison 24 hours a day in your bedroom, living room or family room is a necessary ingredient of modern living. Here are some facts you- won’t be told about in those smooth commercials or sales materials that have sold more than 12 million no-pest strips a year over the last 10 years to nearly 4.8 million unsuspecting householders in this country.
The strips are almost entirely composed of a vaporizing chemical called DDVP. This pesticide was originally registered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1963 over the objections of USDA pharmacologist Dr. Thomas Von Sumter.
In 1965 a public health service committee, worried about the absence of tests regarding the hazards of long-term chronic inhalation of DDVP vapors, voted to discontinue registration. USDA scientist Dr. John Leary rejected this advice the following year and left his job a few months later to work for Shell.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe of our Public Citizen’s Health Research Group examined the toxicologic studies, submitted by the no-pest industry for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and found the data suggested a toxic effect even though the industry concluded otherwise.
Further questions remain unanswered about the quality of the testing process itself, since other raw data are not available for scientific analysis.
Other animal studies done for Shell for possible cancerous effects of DDVP reveal, on closer examination, conclusions different from the official assurances by the testing laboratory. According to Wolfe and Dr. Melvin Rueber, a cancer specialist and EPA consultant, these suggest cancer-causing properties. More conclusive results should come from a National Cancer Institute feeding study.
Just a few weeks ago, Dr. Lawrence R. Valcovic of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, told the EPA:
“There is sufficient evidence from non-mammalian systems to indicate that DDVP has the intrinsic potential for inducing genetic alteration . . . I would recommend that human exposure be avoided if possible.”
Dr. Valcovic’s concern is with the silent violence of low level chronic exposure which millions of people here and abroad have unknowingly, endured.
Shell, on the other hand, does not seem to be as concerned. It pays its laboratory testers and gets its comforting interpretations while the cash registers merrily ring up millions in annual sales.
Shell has agreed to put a warning, required by law, on its package, against using the no-pest strip in restaurants, hospitals and other sensitive places.
Mothers may wish to avoid having their susceptible infants lying in bedrooms with a no-pest strip emitting its vapors that poison the nervous system of airborne insects.
The glacial EPA has been conducting for nearly two years a proceeding to determine whether the no-pest strip should be allowed to stay on the market. .
Will anything happen without a public outcry and a stream of letters and demands upon EPA to move faster?
Perhaps if animal lovers were mobilized around the fact that 32 million dogs and 22 million cats wear flea collars containing DDVP, a new base of support will emerge.
According to studies by Dr. T. G. Bell of Washington State University, two cats exposed to DDVP via multiple flea collars developed fatal aplastic anemia, and other cats suffered more damage.
Morris, the cat, can’t you say something on your next television broadcast?