NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

DDT For Malaria Control May Be Banned

August 30, 1999

The U.S. banned use of the pesticide DDT 27 years ago. Now the United Nations is drafting a treaty that may lead to a global ban on DDT. But public health professionals say that would be a big mistake. DDT is necessary, they contend, to stop the spread of malaria.

  • Malaria kills as many as 2.7 million people a year -- most of them children in undeveloped countries.
  • A child now dies of malaria every 12 seconds, according to Dyann F. Wirth, a malaria expert at the Harvard School of Public Health and president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene -- but that figure could "go up dramatically if we lose this important control tool."
  • Wirth and more than 370 medical researchers in 57 countries want the treaty to allow DDT to be sprayed in small quantities on the interior walls of homes.
  • But environmentalists are adamantly opposed to the pesticide's continued use for any reason -- pitting them against health experts in an intensely acrimonious debate.

The World Wildlife Fund and a group that calls itself Physicians for Social Responsibility are leading the anti-DDT crusade.

Experts report that malaria is making a deadly comeback -- reemerging in regions where it once was under control and killing many more people than it did decades ago, partly due to a reduction in DDT use. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 300 million to 500 million new cases each year.

Source: Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "DDT, Target of Global Ban, Finds Defenders in Experts on Malaria," New York Times, August 29, 1999.

 

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