Sunday, September 17, 2006

Africa's children, malaria, DDT and the European Union

The World Health Organization has decided to be more agressive in pushing for the use of DDT in Africa to wipe out malaria.
Despite its elimination in much of the world, malaria continues to be one of the leading causes of death, especially among children in Africa, who make up some 75 percent of the nearly 2.7 million malaria deaths each year.
The health agency has reached the conclusion that in small amounts DDT is not harmful and they are advocating its use for indoor spraying.

According to this WSJ article ($) Africans fear that the European Union will no longer want to import their agricultural goods if they use more DDT.
In a June letter, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, urged European Union Prime Minister José Manuel Barroso not to boycott agricultural products from countries using DDT for malaria control. "As the experiences of South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zambia have demonstrated, DDT alone can reduce malaria disease and death rates by 75% in less than two years," he wrote. In a reply to Sen. Coburn, Mr. Barroso said that agricultural exports from African countries had not been disrupted due to DDT contamination, and that the EU adheres to the Stockholm Convention, which allows for the use of DDT for malaria-control purposes.
Hmm. The wording of the EU prime minister's remarks is suspicious. It suggests African ag exports have been disrupted which, I always thought, was due to DDT use. But if not for DDT, then what?

So, what's the problem with DDT anyway? In 1962
environmentalist Rachel Carson in the book "Silent Spring," [argued] that DDT was killing off bald eagles, in part by thinning their eggshells, and seeping into the food chain, raised concerns about the powerful chemical's heavy use. Environmental protest led the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of DDT in the U.S. in 1972. It currently is made by one company in India and two in China.
Further,

the findings of a 2001 study lead by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences "strongly suggest that DDT use increases preterm births, which is a major contributor to infant mortality."

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, recommends strategies aimed at preventing mosquito breeding sites by other than chemical means. He says the international community should reject the use of DDT.

"We should be advocating for a just world where we no longer treat poverty and development with poisonous Band-Aids but join together to address the root causes of insect-borne disease, because the chemical-dependent alternatives are ultimately deadly for everyone."

"Root causes." I'm sure he's got something more specific than that that couldn't fit into this article, at least, I hope. I dunno, though. A study that "suggests" versus millions of dead children a year, let alone the hundreds of millions who suffer but survive. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Instapundit links to this 2000 Ron Bailey article for background.


4 Comments:

Blogger Bradley J. Fikes said...

"root causes of insect-borne disease. . ."?

It seems to me the root causes are the diseases themselves and the insects that carry them.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I guess you're right and that's probably obvious. It just seemed like such boiler-plate terminology, instead of something actually useful.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous luther said...

I would have thought the root cause is God for creating the insects and diseases that harm us. But I'm sure it was done out of tough love. :)

10:46 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Heh.

12:54 PM  

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