DDT & Malaria
Thu, 8 Feb 1996 15:12:31 -0500
Re: Molly's comment:
The reasons for the resurgence of malaria are multiple and I by no means
meant to imply that DDT is the sole cause. It is also mistaken to attribute
the near eradication of malaria solely to the use of DDT as Myron does. DDT
is, however, the major cause of the creation of resistant varieties of
mosquitos and even caused cross-resistance to pesticides other than DDT. It
is also the major cause of a series of negative environmental and health
effects that go a long way to outweighing its positve contribution to the
It was shown early in the century (McCullough? was the researcher's name, I
believe, working in Malasia) that malaria could be eradicated by a series of
public health and environmental sanitation measures, without the use of any
chemical pesticides (they hadn't been invented yet). When the world campaign
to eradicate malaria got going these ecological control principles were
incorporated but also, at the insistence of the DDT manufacturing countries,
DDT was added. Malaria was almost eradicated but, tragically, the
governments of the world, when the disease ceased to be a pressing problem,
pulled back on all other aspects of the campaign, except one--the spraying of
DDT. The goal of the campaign was later changed from eradication (malaria is
an eradicable disease, like small pox) to one of control, With DDT. As the
resurgence began (involving multiple factors) the reaction was more DDT--the
easy technical fix instead of the responsible but more difficult social and
ecological measures. Now pesticide companies are pushing malthion (100 times
more costly) for malaria control since the patent has run out on DDT and they
can't make money on it anymore. Ah and not to worry, biotechnology to the
rescue with genetically altered mosquitoes!! Anything but the simple,
responsible social and ecological mesaures, that, unfortunately don't bring
profits to the multinational corporations.
The world lost a golden opprotunity to rid itself of this terrible disease,
now totally out of control, because governments (and the people who elect
them) did not want to pay the bill for delivering the social and
environmental health care programs that would have finished the job.
Unfortunately, the net result of the use of pesticides for malaria control
has been an increase in the misery of the mostly poor people who live in
malaria infested regions.
The people who use chemicals for pest control are, for the most part,
well-intentioned. They are just wrong. **Chemicals are not necessary for
economic pest control** and in fact their net effect to to make things worse.
This has been demonstrated time and time again. There would just be no
question about it if it wasn't a multimillion dollar a year business for
powerful and influential interests. Chemicals are not evil--but the greed and
irresponsiblidty of pesticide profiteers *is* evil, and should be illegal.
I'm afraid some polarization on this issue is necessary, Molly.