NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tragic Consequences Of The Campaign To Ban DDT

May 22, 2001

This week, delegates from around the world are meeting in Stockholm to sign onto the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), a legally binding international treaty that will ban or greatly restrict use of 12 chemicals worldwide. A network of international environmental lobbying groups worked with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to design the treaty, seeking a ban on these chemicals -- which include the pesticide DDT.

According to a new study from the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, millions have needlessly died and more will die due to efforts to restrict and then ban DDT.

DDT is used in programs to control mosquitoes that carry malaria, a parasitic infection that kills up to 3 million people every year, and makes up to 500 million people sick. While the POPs treaty allows signatory countries a DDT exemption for control of disease carriers, such as the anopheles mosquito, public health experts say UNEP will demand reporting requirements that may hinder effective use of the chemical.

  • Worldwide DDT spraying programs to control mosquitoes in the 1940s and 1950s eradicated malaria in wealthy countries and drastically reduced the incidence in many others.
  • But based on fears that the chemical would harm the environment and adversely affect human health, DDT was banned in the developed world, and poor countries were pressured by health and donor agencies and environmental groups to discontinue DDT spraying programs.
  • However, no scientific peer-reviewed study has ever replicated any case of negative human health impacts from DDT, say researchers.

Due to the elimination of DDT spraying programs, malaria has re-emerged and spread in recent years.

Source: Richard Tren and Roger Bate, "Malaria and the DDT Story," Occasional Paper 117, May 22, 2001, Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, London.


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