NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

DDT Ban Increases Malaria Risks

September 2, 1999

Delegates to the United Nations environmental program will meet in Geneva to decide whether to ban use of the pesticide DDT worldwide. Some 350 physicians and scientists who belong to the Malaria Foundation International are imploring them not to do so. They fear that without a cost-effective alternative, millions of people around the globe -- particularly those in developing countries -- will die of the disease if the mosquito-borne population is no longer quelled by the chemical.

  • Every year, malaria kills some 2.7 million people -- and leaves another 500 million chronically ill.
  • Although environmental activists have been successful in banning the product in developing countries, they have not been successful in removing it from Ecuador -- which has increased DDT use since 1993, and seen a 60 percent decline in new malaria cases.
  • Conversely, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru -- which halted DDT spraying altogether in 1993 -- have witnessed a 90 percent rise in new cases.
  • In South Africa -- where malaria rates are up 500 percent in recent years -- the disease kills far more people than AIDS.

Experts say that an effective vaccine against malaria is years away, and the costs for an effective malaria-prevention program would probably be beyond the reach of developing countries.

DDT defenders are not suggesting that the pesticide be spread broadly; they only want it available to be sprayed in small quantities in the interior walls of homes as a preventive measure. Observers say U.N. officials have turned their backs on that proposal.

Source: Lorraine Mooney (European Science and Environmental Forum), "DDT Ban Would Be Deadly," Wall Street Journal, September 2, 1999.


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