Dr. Conyers, I Presume

Editorial | 28 Apr 2007
Wall Street Journal

Tuesday was Africa Malaria Day, and Michigan Representative John Conyers marked the event by inviting something called the Pesticide Action Network to Capitol Hill to denounce DDT as an unsafe malaria intervention. What was he thinking?

Malaria, which is spread through mosquito bites, kills about a million people annually, mostly children and pregnant women in Africa. We're not sure where the House Judiciary Chairman got his medical expertise, but he won't reduce that death toll by promoting disinformation about DDT and malaria prevention. And at taxpayers' expense, no less.

PAN and a shrinking band of other activist know-nothings insist that employing DDT against malaria is "especially dangerous for developing infants and children," but there is no scientific basis to the claim. Zip. Spraying DDT in the amounts needed to keep malarial mosquitoes at bay has never been shown to harm humans, animals or the environment. Their hostility to DDT reflects an animus held on the extremes of the modern environmentalist movement against pesticides of any sort -- even if they can save human lives.

The World Health Organization, the Global Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development have overcome this hostility and endorsed DDT as a safe and effective tool for fighting malaria. Even environmentalist groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, that once deplored DDT have piped down.

Mr. Conyers is very busy these days issuing subpoenas to anything that moves in the Beltway, but he and his staff might at least brush up on their public-health science before sponsoring their next medical seminar.