DDT returns - N E W S F E AT U R E 2006 Nature Publishing...

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It’s possibly the most reviled chemical on the planet. Every adult anywhere in the world could list its supposed evils. And it’s been the subject of a long and bitter battle that defies traditional divisions of liberal and conservative. But here it is, poised for a comeback. After decades of being marginalized as a dangerous pesticide, DDT—short for dichloro- diphenyl-trichloro ethane—is set to be reintro- duced into countries that have tried, and failed, to win the fight against malaria. On 2 May, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), arguably the most powerful donor agency in the world, endorsed the indoor spraying of DDT for malaria control. The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to follow. In its new guidelines, a final version of which is expected to be released later this summer, the WHO is unequivocal in its recommendation of DDT for indoor residual spraying. For the many African countries riddled with malaria, this is welcome news. “We in southern Africa feel extremely happy,” says John Govere, integrated vector control officer for the WHO’s Southern Africa Malaria Control Programme. Malaria kills as many as 1 million people each year, about 90% of them in Africa. Someone dies of malaria every 30 seconds—and most of those are pregnant women and children under the age of five. Even the millions who survive can be reinfected, leaving them bedridden and decimating economies. Little surprise then, that just days after USAID’s announcement, Tanzania said that it would lift its DDT ban. Others soon followed. For these impoverished countries, the choice may seem clear: DDT is cheap and lasts longer than other pesticides, so it has to be sprayed less often. Most pesticides work by killing mosquitoes on contact, but DDT also repels them. “DDT is the most effective chemical, the most effective insecticide in terms of malaria,” says Arata Kochi, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme. Silent spring If DDT is that effective, why has it been so vilified? “You’ve heard of Rachel Carson? Well that’s your answer,” says Maureen Coetzee, chief of vector control research at South Africa’s NEWS FEATURE National Institute for Communicable Diseases. “DDT was so abused in the ‘50s and ‘60s that it is still suffering from that abuse.” In the 1940s, DDT was considered a miracle chemical. Airplanes sprayed thousands of tons of the pesticide, coating acres of crops, villages and cities with abandon. By 1949, the US was malaria free. Between 1955 and 1969, the Global Malaria Eradication Campaign also relied heavily on DDT. In Europe, India, South America, Africa, wherever it was used widely, DDT cut malaria rates dramatically and saved millions of lives. Then came Carson’s
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This note was uploaded on 01/15/2012 for the course BSC 3402 taught by Professor Brockmann,h during the Fall '08 term at University of Florida.

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DDT returns - N E W S F E AT U R E 2006 Nature Publishing...

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