Most people thought DDT was safe, even healthy

“Insects were not just the bane of cattlemen and farmers throughout the world. Flies, in particular, were believed to spread polio outdoors and in the home. In response, fearful parents sprayed DDT on all their windowsills and sprinkled it on sandwiches in their children’s lunchboxes. DDT in water was used to rinse clothes, bedding, and mattresses. It was thought to be a safe and effective insecticide—even safe enough to spray at public beaches and directly onto children in an effort to halt the spread of polio.

But science did not support such practices. Most people wrongly thought that DDT was not only nontoxic, but that it was actually good for them. By the 1960s, there was convincing evidence that poliovirus could live quite happily in pesticide-treated cells, and moreover, that the pesticides led to increased susceptibility of viral invasion. DDT was found to enhance the release andintracellular multiplication of poliovirus. Thus, it likely contributed to creating a monster out of a normally benign gut virus.

Unfortunately, this information was not published in the medical literature until a full decade after the polio vaccine was an accepted solution to poliomyelitis. Coincidentally, DDT was phased out of use in the United States and Canada beginning in the 1960s, right around the time that polio was disappearing.

During summer months at the beach, sugared foods were consumed in large volume. Together with DDT, sugar would have created the perfect storm to paralyze the immune system and create a toxic environment in the gut, giving way to serious poliovirus invasion. Diet—in particular, diets high in refined sugar and flour—has a known impact on susceptibility to severe poliovirus infection.The harsh chemicals used in cane sugar refining are thought by some scientists to have contributed to the synergy between an otherwise innocent virus and the sugar.

In addition, as Dr. Sandler demonstrated, sugar metabolism and post-prandial hypoglycemia increased cellular viral susceptibility. In the fear-baked summers of polio, many parents were totally unaware that exposure to DDT alone induced symptoms that were completely indistinguishable from poliomyelitis even in the absence of a virus.

How could doctors possibly have distinguished a case that presented like DDT poisoning from poliomyelitis? They couldn’t. After all, most people thought DDT was completely nontoxic and even healthy. These toxicity cases would have been diagnosed as polio and treated as such, often with a crippling outcome. It is not surprising that Dr. Fred Klenner was able to cure 60 out of 60 cases (100 percent) of polio (including bulbar polio) with the detoxifying agent, vitamin C, given in high intravenous doses. Doctors were on the lookout for polio but not DDT poisoning.

It’s no small wonder that polio appeared to be such a vicious entity from the late 1800s and up until DDT was phased out of use in the United States. But that didn’t happen until after a vaccine for polio was fully embraced as a savior of humanity in 1954. The United States was considered free of wild polio as of 1979.

Today in India, ‘polio’ is a well-publicized problem, and DDT can be found on shelves just about anywhere. India, one of four countries that still manufactures DDT, remains the chemical’s largest consumer and producer. China suffered an epidemic of polio in 2011 and is one of the four countries that has produced and continues to use DDT. Although breast milk DDT levels in women in the United States is among the lowest in the world after decades of its banning, many other countries are still polluted with the chemical.”

— Suzanne Humphries, MD and Roman Bystrianyk

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