Falcon's fall

Letter to the editor
Copyright 1999 San Francisco Examiner
August 29, 1999

Your editorial "The un-endangered falcon" (Aug. 22) perpetuates the myth that DDT was responsible for the decline of peregrine falcon populations.

But the decline in the U.S. peregrine falcon population occurred long before the DDT years. Peregrine falcons were deemed undesirable in the early 20th century. Dr. William Hornaday of the New York Zoological Society referred to them as birds that "deserve death, but are so rare that we need not take them into account."

Falconers were blamed for decimating western populations.

In 1966, scientists impaneled by the United Kingdom government concluded: "There is no close correlation between the declines in populations of predatory birds, particularly the peregrine falcon... and the use of DDT."

Many experiments on caged birds demonstrate that DDT and its metabolites (DDD and DDE) do not cause serious egg shell thinning, even at levels many hundreds of times greater than wild birds would ever accumulate.

After seven months of testimony during 1971-1972, an administrative judge in the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that DDT had no deleterious effect on wild birds. He was overruled by EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus. He decided to ban DDT, even though he never attended one minute of the DDT hearings and never even read the hearing transcript.

Steven Milloy
Publisher, junkscience.com
Washington, D.C.

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