NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

DDT'S NEW FRIEND

September 18, 2006

The World Health Organization announced Friday that it will begin actively promoting use of the pesticide DDT to combat malaria in developing nations.  After tens of millions of preventable malarial deaths in these poor countries, it's nice to see WHO finally come to its senses, says the Wall Street Journal.

The agency's malaria chief, Arata Kochi, told reporters that "one of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual spraying.  Of the dozen or so insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT."  He also said, "We must take a position based on the science and the data."

  • Malaria is the number one killer of pregnant women and children in Africa and among the top killers in Asia and South America. 
  • It's long been known that DDT is the cheapest and most effective way to contain the disease, which is spread by infected mosquitoes.
  • But United Nations health agencies and others have for decades resisted employing DDT under pressure from anti-pesticide environmentalists.

For decades, the science and empirical data about DDT's effectiveness have been distorted or suppressed.  Nevertheless, there is no evidence that DDT use in the amounts necessary to ward off malarial mosquitoes is harmful to humans, wildlife or the environment.

One insecticide won't end malaria, and DDT's proponents don't claim it will.  But by keeping more people alive and healthy, DDT can help create the conditions for the only lasting solution, which is economic growth and development, says the Journal. 

Source: Editorial, "DDT's New Friend," Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2006.

 

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