NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Buzz about DDT

April 14, 2004

For years, Westerners and environmental activists pressured developing countries to stop using the most effective malaria preventive around -- the pesticide known as DDT -- due to concerns over its harmful effects to the environment. Abandoning DDT, however, has resulted in devastation to human populations, says the New York Times.

  • Each year, 300 to 500 million people contract malaria.
  • Of the two million people who die each year from the disease, 90 percent are children under the age of 5, predominantly from African countries; children who survive are often brain-damaged.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that countries with malaria endemics experience a decline in their economies by about 20 percent over 15 years.

Many experts agree that DDT, in spite of its falling out of favor with the Western world, is the most effective means of preventing malaria. In countries where spraying has resumed or continued, the results have been amazing, notes the NYT:

  • The hospital in Mosvold (a province of South Africa) reported 2,303 cases in March 2000, before the use of DDT; by March 2003, the hospital reported only 3 cases that month.
  • Latin America stopped using DDT in the 1980's only to see their malaria cases rise to over 1 million additional cases per year; only Ecuador was able to keep Malaria under control, simply because they continued using DDT.

Many humanitarian organizations are recognizing the effectiveness and the cost savings of using DDT, however, the World Bank and World Health Organization will not fund its use. Moreover, many research agencies refuse to fund studies on DDT due to the stigma associated with the chemical.

Source: Tina Rosenberg, 'What The World Needs Now is DDT," New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2004.


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