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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