NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

DDT: A Lifesaving Pesticide

July 28, 2000

If environmental activists have their way, DDT -- the most effective mosquito-control agent known -- will soon be banned from the planet. For nearly 30 years, DDT has been banned from America's arsenal of pesticides because of environmental concerns. And the United Nations Environmental Program is now sponsoring a legally binding convention for a worldwide ban on DDT.

But strong opposition to such a move has arisen from doctors and public health experts due to a resurgence of mosquito-borne malaria cases in areas where it had previously been eradicated.

  • Earlier this year, a group of 380 scientists signed an open letter arguing for the renewed use of DDT inside houses to fight the accelerating number of malaria cases.
  • In poor, developing countries, DDT would be sprayed on the inside walls of homes and huts -- with negligible environmental consequences.
  • After the U.S. and other industrialized countries outlawed DDT, the ban was gradually extended to countries in the developing world through threats to withhold foreign aid -- in effect, blackmailing them into dropping their most effective anti-malarial weapon.
  • The decline in DDT use was followed by malarial epidemics in developing countries around the world -- resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Even here at home, two Boy Scouts contracted malaria while camping in New York state last summer.

There is substantial doubt that DDT is even a threat to the environment. As a recent article in the Lancet, a British medical journal, notes, we have yet to find a single significant health threat from DDT use even after 40 years of exhaustive research.

Source: Alex Avery and Dennis Avery (both of the Hudson Institute), "Bring Back DDT, and Save Lives," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2000.


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