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Daily News Archive
From December 1, 2000

Poor Nations Presented with a Lose-Lose Choice Due to a Lack of Forward Thinking About Malaria Control

USA Today reported on November 29, 2000 that a coalition of health advocates is calling for the continued use of DDT against malaria. This is despite the chemicals health risks and questions of efficacy raised by environmentalists. Tragically, market forces and political expediency may cause some poor nations to choose between malaria and exposure to DDT. Environmentalists point out that the prevalence of the disease continues even with the use of DDT, and call on the U.N. and other governmental bodies to research and develop an integrated pest management approach to mosquito control to combat malaria.

Representatives from more than 120 countries are working to finalize the language of a United Nations Environmental Programme treaty that would phase out 12 chemicals considered persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, that began in 1998. POPs include many notorious toxic chemicals, for example DDT, chlordane, dioxins and PCBs. The proposed treaty provides countries with the opportunity to request exemptions of specific chemicals.

DDT was banned in the United States in 1972 because of its devastating effects on fish and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that DDT, and its metabolites DDE and DDD, are probable human carcinogens. Studies have shown that DDT takes more than 15 years to breakdown in soil. The fact that DDT bioaccumulates in fatty tissue is particularly important in poorer countries where a large part of the diet is made up of fish and other game that may be contaminated with the pesticide.

Without question, malaria ranks at the top of the list of public health crises around the world. Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting the disease to an estimated 300 million people a year, killing 2.5 million.