Malaria

Since January 1, 1999, people have been afflicted by malaria.
Of these, have died.

That's one needless premature death every 10.5 seconds.

were pregnant women, or children under the age of five.

The vast majority of these malaria cases are in the developing world, where the burden on their health care systems can be least afforded. Income support for the 300-500 million people debilitated by this disease each year is a luxury they simply cannot provide. The toll in human misery and suffering is horrendous.

There is a cheap and extremely effective way of controlling this disease. It's called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane - DDT for short.

In her 1962 publication, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson demonised DDT, accusing it of all manner of human and environmental evils. Despite constant myth reinforcement, the claims against DDT have been reviewed and the studies re-examined - Rachel was wrong.

DDT was, and is, less hazardous and more effective than many of the 'degradable' compounds with which it has been replaced. Most importantly for the developing world, it is also considerably cheaper than the available alternatives and requires fewer applications, which reduces the cost even further.

Right now, a fluorescent green coalition, led by WWF, are trying to force a global ban on the use of DDT. They claim that there are more environmentally friendly ways of controlling mosquitoes - the principal malarial vectors. Part of their grand substitute control plan is the draining of mosquito breeding grounds. Quite apart from the practical impossibility of this scheme in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where every wet season animal hoof/foot print creates habitat for mosquito breeding, their plans to drain wetlands on a massive scale is worrying from a conservation viewpoint. Large-scale destruction of key habitats is surely not 'environmentally friendly' and how can wholesale vandalism of critical ecosystems be considered 'saving the world' even under dire threat, let alone from such relatively benign substances as DDT?

Given that this anti-chemical coalition is composed primarily of wildlife, wilderness, and conservation groups, the suspicion arises that, once this useful chemical becomes unavailable, they would again 'hop the fence' and fight to protect the very wetlands they now wish to drain to eliminate the need for chemical usage.

Due to its persistence - DDT breaks down slowly in the environment - there is probably a good case to avoid it for broad-scale agricultural use, but that is not where its main value lies.

DDT is a wonderfully effective malarial vector control that can be applied in small quantities to the interior walls of dwellings. It is credited with saving half-a-billion human lives and, after 50 years, there is still no compelling evidence that it causes any harm to humans or that selective use for mosquito control causes any environmental ill-effects. Critically important features of this compound for developing nations are that it is very cheap to manufacture, it is a stable compound so it need be applied infrequently and still remains effective, and it has extremely low toxicity which makes it suitable for indoor use.

On the strength of myth and hyperbole, the 'green coalition' wants us to wage chemical warfare on developing nations, particularly on pregnant women and children under five, by denying them access to one of the five greatest human health aids of all time.

Banning the use of DDT to control malaria will not 'Save the World', but it will for sure kill people - 90% of whom will be pregnant women and young children.

Do we really want this?

Barry Hearn
EVAG Coordinator
September 10, 1999

Since you have been on this page more people have been afflicted by malaria and more people have died of this infection.

Update: June 2, 2000 - Pregnant women twice as likely to get malaria

Pregnant women are twice as likely to get bitten by mosquitoes and so run twice the risk of contracting malaria, scientists have found.

Steve Lindsay, a biologist from Durham University, led a study which found that pregnant women are more attractive and more vulnerable to mosquitoes.

The study is reported in the medical journal The Lancet.


Follow the link to read the Facts Versus Fears section on DDT. For further information here are some DDT and malaria resources on the web:
100 things you should know about DDT
DDT, Global Strategies, and a Malaria Control Crisis in South America
Malaria Foundation International
Malaria: History, Vector Biology and Control, and Current World Situation - The Page that Goes Where the WHO No Longer Treads!

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Responsibility for comment and opinion published on this site is accepted by Barry Hearn,
Economically Viable Alternative Green Coordinator, email: coordinator@altgreen.com.au

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