The UnAustralian

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Malaria and DDT: Reality vs. Propaganda

Now that I've been reading other blogs for a while, it's being apparent that one of the memes that floats around the blogosphere is that environmentalists are responsible for the malaria deaths of millions because of the bans on DDT.

Having done some very basic research (ie. rereading the malaria section of Laurie Garrett's, The Coming Plague and some googling), it seems that this statement is pretty far from the truth.

As usual info-pollution is the best source for information on the ban.

The problem with the anti-environmentalist meme is that it provides such a simplistic picture that it is next to useless. Countries like India that didn't ban DDT, are still plagued by malaria. DDT resistance tends to either be ignored or brushed over. The massive malaria eradication effort which started in 1958 was mostly funded by the US. After 5 years, it's funding was cut. This (and the use of DDT in agriculture) are responsible for significant insect resistance to DDT.

The geographical range of malaria has been shrinking over time, for a number of reasons. One of which is the use of chemical controls such as DDT. However, other variables such as human habit also play a major role. Simple things such as window screens can play a massive role (by isolating humans from mosquitos one can kill off malaria - while the mosquitos live off other animals, the malaria parasite needs a human host to progress through it's lifecycle).

If you want someone to blame for the resurgence of malaria, then the use of DDT in agriculture and the incomplete eradication program are much better targets than environmental fears.

| 10:28 PM