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Saturday, September 16, 2006

World Health Organization Endorses DDT Use

The Geneva, Switzerland-based World Health Organization (WHO) came out in support of indoor use of the pesticide DDT to control mosquitoes. The Sept 15, 2006 decision reversed a 30-year-old policy and allows the use of DDT in regions where malaria is a major health problem. Now the WHO should endorse outdoor use to eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes and they will have it totally right. WHO, like AAEA, now believes the benefits of DDT use far outweigh any health or environmental risk it may pose. AAEA has met with EPA on this issue and approached the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about supporting an outdoor DDT initiative. About 1 million people die each year of malaria, most of them African children under age 5.

Although overused to the point of threatening raptors and other birds by softening eggshells in the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. provides an excellent example for how to use and suspend use of DDT to end the malaria problem. We disagree with the WHO endorsement for once- or twice-yearly spraying of the pesticide on the inside walls of dwellings. Although DDT has few if any adverse effects in human beings, we believe its use outdoors would be most effective in preventing malaria. Some believe that DDT could cause premature birth and developmental delay in children, but the evidence is sketchy and the American population seems to have fared well during its use for decades. Most mosquitoes are outside and humans are very active outside. Although DDT persists for years, its use can be suspended after the malaria carrying mosquitoes are brought under control.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) endorsed greater DDT use this year too. Most of the mainstream environmental community still values the lives of some birds over millions of people, most of them children. Maybe it is because they are mostly African children and not their children.

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