NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Health Officials Defend The Pesticide DDT

November 29, 2000

Despite the protests of radical environmentalists, public health advocates are championing the use of the pesticide DDT in poor nations to combat mosquitoes that transmit malaria. "If we just focus on the issue of controlling malaria, DDT is the closest to a miracle chemical that has ever come along," says Donald Roberts, a malaria expert with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • DDT use was banned in the U.S. in 1972 because of its affects on fish and wildlife, but it is still used in 23 mostly poor nations for mosquito control.
  • Malaria infects an estimated 300 million people a year -- killing about 2.5 million of them.
  • Experts say that newer chemical alternatives to DDT are simply too expensive for poorer countries to afford.
  • DDT persists in soil for long periods and need only be sprayed once a year on walls inside houses.

Malaria expert Roberts is U.S. spokesman for the Save Children from Malaria campaign. He will be attending a United Nations agency meeting in Johannesburg next week to try to persuade representatives from more than 120 countries not to ban DDT use for malaria control in selected countries.

Source: Anita Manning, "Poor Nations Take Lesser of Two Evils: DDT Over Malaria," USA Today, November 27, 2000.


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