Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

More on DDT and malaria

with one comment

The latest issue of New Scientist has, as an opinion piece, a “history” of the use of DDT. You get the thrust of the piece from the title: “How the world let malaria off the hook.” The author, one Fred Pearce, implies without saying so that “the world” stopped the use of DDT for fighting malaria through killing mosquitoes. This is simply and utterly false. From Wikipedia, for example:

The Stockholm Convention, ratified in 2001 and effective as of 17 May 2004, outlawed several persistent organic pollutants, and restricted the use of DDT to vector control. The Convention was signed by 98 countries and is endorsed by most environmental groups. Recognizing that a total elimination of DDT use in many malaria-prone countries is currently unfeasible because there are few affordable or effective alternatives for controlling malaria, the public health use of DDT was exempted from the ban until such alternatives are developed. Regular updates on the continued need to use DDT and on global DDT production and use is available from the Stockholm Convention. [4] Malaria Foundation International states:

The outcome of the treaty is arguably better than the status quo going into the negotiations over two years ago. For the first time, there is now an insecticide which is restricted to vector control only, meaning that the selection of resistant mosquitoes will be slower than before.[14]

As of 2006, DDT continues to be used in other (primarily tropical) countries where mosquito-borne malaria and typhus are serious health problems. Use of DDT in public health to control mosquitoes is primarily done inside buildings and through inclusion in household products and selective spraying; this greatly reduces environmental damage compared to the earlier widespread use of DDT in agriculture. It also reduces the risk of resistance to DDT.[15] This use only requires a small fraction of that previously used in agriculture; for the whole country of Guyana, covering an area of 215,000 km², the required amount is roughly equal to the amount of DDT that might previously have been used to spray 4 km² of cotton during a single growing season.[16]

Agricultural use of DDT was banned, and a good thing, too: it was devastating to wildlife and the continued promiscuous use would have quickly led to resistance in insects. I fear that Pearce’s article is yet another in a disinformation campaign. Too bad New Scientist fell for it, but at least they categorized it as “opinion.”

Written by LeisureGuy

7 October 2007 at 11:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. NPR (Living on Earth show, I think) had a piece on how exposure to DDT in pre adolescent girls (not those on farms, just any girl living in cities, etc.) really ups the chances of breast cancer. Those born between 1945-1965 are particularly at risk.


    7 October 2007 at 4:06 pm

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