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Nearly every month almost as many people die from malaria as were killed by the tsunami waves in the Indian Ocean. Most of malaria’s victims, some 2 million a year, are children under the age of 5. More than 300 million annually suffer from this debilitating disease that drains survivors of their mental and physical energies. Incredibly, there’s an easy, proven and cheap way to eradicate most of the globe’s malaria–DDT. Yet in one of history’s more murderously myopic ongoing actions, most advanced countries and international agencies discourage its use. Why? Blame Rachel Carson’s seismically influential–and now largely discredited–book, Silent Spring, first published in 1962. In it she blames DDT for imperiling birds and people, portraying it as a blight of almost biblical proportions. It ain’t so. As Dr. Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science & Health once put it, there “has never been a documented case of human illness or death in the U.S. as a result of the standard and accepted use of pesticides.” The British medical journal The Lancet similarly notes that after 40 years of research no significant health threat from DDT has been found.
Indiscriminate use of DDT will indeed have a deleterious impact on certain birds. But we’re not advocating that. The use of tiny amounts inside a house or hut is all that’s needed. As Nicholas Kristof observed in one of his New York Times columns, “Four hundred fifty thousand people can be protected [from malaria] with the same amount [of DDT] that was applied in the 1960s to a single 1,000-acre American cotton farm.… Humans are far better off exposed to DDT than exposed to malaria.”
Yet Carson’s book has made DDT taboo–with ghastly results. Some 30 million to 60 million people have perished unnecessarily. In 1996, for example, South Africa stopped using DDT, and its malaria cases increased tenfold. Four years later South Africa reversed itself and employed DDT again. The result: The incidence of malaria promptly dropped almost 80%. Nevertheless, too many health officials cling to alternatives that are only fractionally as effective. That various agencies, governments, health officials and environmentalists have deliberately dissuaded the world from using DDT is one of the most immoral moves of modern times.
And more . . .
Though Africa’s sad experience with colonialism ended in the 1960s, a lethal vestige remains: malaria. It is the biggest killer of Ugandan and all African children. Today, every single Ugandan remains at risk. Over 10 million Ugandans are infected each year, and up to 100,000 of our mothers and children die from the disease. Yet it remains preventable and curable.
The U.S. banned DDT in 1972, spurred on by environmentalist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring. Many countries in Europe and around the world followed suit. But after decades of exhaustive scientific review, DDT has been shown to not only be safe for humans and the environment, but also [to be] the single most effective antimalarial agent ever invented. Nothing else at any price does everything it can do. That is why the WHO has once again recommended using DDT wherever possible against malaria.
We must be able to use DDT. Environmental leaders must join the 21st century, acknowledge the mistakes Carson made and balance the hypothetical risks of DDT with the real and devastating consequences of malaria. Africa is determined to rise above the contemporary colonialism that keeps us impoverished. We expect strong leadership in G-8 countries to stop paying lip service to African self-determination and start supporting solutions that are already working.
–Sam Zaramba, director general of health services for the Republic of Uganda, Wall Street Journal
Hat tip: Forbes
Also see DDT by Dan over at The Christian Alert.