A response to the paper entitled "DDT and urogenital malformations in newborn boys in a malarial area"

26 Oct 2009
Africa Fighting Malaria
For six decades dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) has been used successfully in indoor residual spraying programs to control malaria. During the many decades that DDT has been in use, thousands of tonnes of the chemical have been produced and used throughout the world with millions of people coming into direct contact with it in one way or another. One of the main attributes of the pesticide, which contributes to its effectiveness in the fight against malaria, is its long residual action. This attribute vastly improved malaria control when DDT was first introduced in the 1940s. Dr. Paul Müller, who discovered DDT's insecticidal properties, was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work. His discovery proved vitally important for malaria control, as prior to this, insecticides such as natural pyrethrum had to be sprayed approximately every two weeks compared to around once a year with DDT. DDT's persistence made malaria control more effective and cost-effective and protected hundreds of millions of people from this preventable disease. But DDT's persistence has also given rise to the suspicion that the insecticide is harmful to humans.

Over the years, huge numbers of studies have investigated the potential adverse effects of DDT on human health. Yet despite the voluminous research, no scientific study has been able to prove that DDT is harmful to people. Most studies find no evidence of harm or find only weak and unreplicated associations between DDT and possible human health harm. Unfortunately, those weak and un-replicated studies are all too often used by anti-insecticide activists to lobby for restrictions on public health insecticides.

Based on DDT's effectiveness in malaria control and its history of safe use, it is one of a dozen insecticides recommended for use by the World Health Organization. Yet studies attempting to find human health harm from DDT are ongoing, the most recent is found in a study by Bornman et al, published in the British Journal of Urology International, entitled "DDT and urogenital malformations in newborn boys in a malarial area". Studies that provide the public health community with improved understanding of public health interventions should be welcomed by all. However, the research by Bornman and others is neither informative nor instructive and could severely undermine malaria control.

Full response available at http://www.fightingmalaria.org/pdfs/responsebornmanetal.pdf