The U.S. Government has finally begun to reverse policy on the
insecticide DDT. Let's hope that this policy shift represents the
beginning of the end of what can only be called a crime against
humanity: the decades-old withholding of the world's most effective
anti-malarial weapon from billions of adults and children at risk of
dying from the disease.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) told the Washington Times
this week (May 3) that it endorses and will fund the indoor spraying of
DDT in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria kills more than one million Africans
annually, mostly children under five and pregnant women.
Malaria accounts for 10 percent of Africa's disease burden and causes $12 billion yearly in lost productivity.
USAID reportedly will use about 20 percent of its $99 billion budget to fund indoor spraying with DDT, according to the Times. "Between 1 million and 1.5 million people will be protected," a USAID official told the Times.
There are, of course, many more millions of Africans that need
protection from the mosquitoes that transmit the parasite that causes
malaria, but USAID's announcement represents a ray of hope compared to
its previous policy which - as characterized by Robert S. Desowitz's
book entitled, Malaria Capers (Norton, 1992) - appeared to be
that people in Third World malarial regions were "better dead than
alive and riotously reproducing."
The policy change is timely given a recent commentary published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet
(April 25) in which a number of researchers accuse the World Bank of
deception and medical malpractice in the struggle against malaria.
The researchers charge that the World Bank reneged on its promise to
spend $300 million to $500 million for malaria control in Africa;
concealed the actual amount of its expenditures; reduced its staff of
malaria experts from seven to zero shortly after promising to do more
to fight the disease; published false epidemiological studies to
exaggerate the performance of its projects; and funded clinically
obsolete treatments, against the World Health Organization's advice,
for malaria in India.
Given that the World Bank's defense amounted to "we are committed to
learning from our shortcomings," it seems clear that Africans would be
better off with an effective anti-malarial tool like DDT, rather than
the efforts of pathetically ineffective bureaucrats.
Roadblocks to the lifesaving use of DDT remain - mostly in the form
of the modern environmental movement and its governmental subsidiary
known as the European Union.
"Environmentalists are calling for the elimination of the toxic
chemical, DDT, which is still used in large parts of Africa to combat
malaria," the Voice of America reported this week.
The EU recently put this policy into practice, for example, by
threatening to impose a ban on agricultural exports from Uganda if that
nation proceeded with its plan for indoor spraying of DDT, according to
Paul Driessen, senior fellow at the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
"If the strict controls that should be put in place when DDT is used
are not fully adhered to, and there is a risk of contamination of the
food chain, [it] would not automatically lead to a ban of food
products, but it will mean that that particular consignment cannot be
sent to Europe," said Tom Vens, an EU official in Uganda.
The Ugandans countered by maintaining that "DDT is not harmful to
humans and if used for indoor-insecticide spraying, it's the most
effective and cheapest way to fight malaria," according to Driessen.
The Ugandans have it right.
There never was any scientific evidence that DDT posed a risk to
humans or wildlife. An EPA administrative law judge said as much after
seven months and 9,000 pages of testimony about DDT in 1972. DDT wasn't
responsible for the decline in bald eagle populations, didn't cause
bird egg shell-thinning and didn't cause cancer in humans, the judge
DDT was nonethless banned in the U.S. when then-EPA administrator
William Ruckleshaus reversed without explanation the decision of the
judge who actually heard all the DDT testimony - Ruckleshaus heard none
of it and never read any of the transcript. As it was later revealed,
Ruckleshaus was a member of the Audubon Society and raised money for
the Environmental Defense Fund - the two activist groups that led the
charge for the DDT ban.
The fix was in for DDT, as environmental activists subsequently
exported the ban to the rest of the world - with horrific consequences,
including tens of millions killed and billions made ill by malaria over
It's time for the malaria tragedy to end. A documentary by producer D. Rutledge Taylor, MD entitled, "3 Billion and Counting"
- which will take "an in-depth look at the disease that has killed more
people than any disease ever known" - is in the works and will be
released later this year.
Let's forget the myths about DDT - it's time to stop malaria now.http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,194332,00.html