AFM Commentary on DDT Conference

16 Mar 2008
Morning Sun

The following articles published in the Morning Sun, a local newspaper in Michigan, United States, expose the inevitable bias against the use of insecticides in public health programs and the lack of understanding of the real risks that people in poor countries face. Such vague reporting causes more damage than good and fuels misperceptions amongst readers. These reports reflect the ongoing need for constructive advocacy on the use of DDT to control malaria.

The first report describes the ongoing research to find some harm to human health caused by DDT. In mentioning the benefits to using DDT in malaria control, it states that DDT "can pose a significant health risk." The report does not state that DDT is probably the most studied chemical in existence and that in over 60 years no study has replicated a case of actual human harm from DDT. Contrast that with the many thousands of lives saved every year from DDT. The report further does not distinguish or clarify the difference between past and present use, application methods and application rates of DDT. It merely mentions that DDT was banned but is still used in some countries for malaria control which creates the perception that DDT is still used in the same excessive way it was used in the agricultural sector.

The second report describes an Alma College student's speculation that historical DDT manufacture sites are related to higher cancer rates and other health problems amongst locals. We would draw the readers' attention to the full text of the article, which makes it clear that these claims cannot be substantiated. In fact, countless other studies - peer-reviewed studies, which this is not - have failed to make this connection because there are simply too many other variables that impact peoples' health. The general public is unaware of this body of literature and likely the magnitude of the malaria problem in Africa. Instead of indulging in speculation and emotional accounts, the Morning Sun should inform readers that the World Health Organization has always supported DDT for malaria control based on extensive and ongoing research.