By the Numbers

Beyond propaganda and rhetoric, numbers tell the real story

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests blood and urine from thousands of people nationwide to measure the presence of 148 chemicals. According to the latest findings, the percentage of children (aged 1-5 years) with elevated blood levels of lead has declined from 88.2 percent in 1976-1980 to 1.6 percent in 1999-2002. Blood levels of dioxins, furans and PCBs have decreased by more than 80 percent since the 1980s. As the report notes, the mere presence of a chemical in the blood does not portend illness or disease. The toxicity of chemicals, both natural and synthetic, varies dramatically. For more information go to

The 2007 budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development includes $20 million for spraying DDT to control malaria in Third World countries. All told, the agency is slated to receive $1.2 billion in U.S. aid for malaria control over the next five years. The World Health Organization in 2006 ended its moratorium on DDT and now advocates use of the insecticide to combat malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever. WHO halted the use of DDT in the 1980s, and turned to other insecticides and bed nets to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes that infect 500 million people annually, and kill 1 million. Spraying DDT on walls twice a year discourages the entry of 90 percent of mosquitoes. The chemical either kills the remaining 10 percent or prevents them from biting. Two years of DDT use in Zambia reduced malaria infections and deaths by 75 percent. South Africa began indoor spraying of DDT in 2001, and has reduced the number of malaria cases by 80 percent (from 60,000 to 5,000) and the number of deaths from 425 to 50. For more information go to

China will surpass the United States in the production of so-called greenhouse gases in 2009 — a decade earlier than previously thought, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Coal-fired energy plants account for more than 70 percent of the country’s energy consumption, according to the paper. China’s National Bureau of Statistics reports that the country increased its use of fossil fuels by 9.3 percent in 2006 and, overall, has increased its demand for coal by 18 percent. To keep up with the country’s energy demands, China opens a new coal-generated plant every 10 days and plans to open another 2,200 plants by 2030. The U.S. Energy Information Administration Web site projects that China will require an additional 546 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity by 2030 to keep up with current levels of growth. For more information go to 2007/03/09/1173166991682.html# and

Michigan forests are thriving, but two tree species are under siege from emerald ash borers and beech scales.

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