Saturday, September 16, 2006

DDT endorsed by World Health Organisation

One should applaud the World Health Organisation for finally coming to their senses. They just endorsed the use of DDT to exterminate and repel malaria carrying mosquitoes in Africa.

DDT is one of the most effective means available to spot the mosquito. It is sprayed lightly on the walls of the huts in which people live. The mosquitoe then avoids the huts. As everyone knows they come out to eat at night and people are mostly indoors then. This cuts down on the number of bites dramatically lowering the infection rate. About 1 million people die per year because of malaria. Yet there was a time when malaria was virtually under control in Africa.

Then Rachel Carson wrote her hysterical, unscientific book The Silent Spring and well-off, mostly white, environmentalists started a campaign of fear to stop the use of DDT. The US Environmental Protection Agency studied DDT and concluded that it was not a risk to human health at all. They banned it any way saying it was a political decision. And millions died. Even today the false stories of Carson are repeated as gospel truth. For instance the New York Times article on this reversal says Carson documented "how mass spraying of DDT entered the food chain, causing cancer and genetic damage and threatening to wipe out some bird species, including the bald eagle."

Carson claimed such things but scientific studies simply don't confirm her thesis. Why does the Times seem to believe that her claims are documented and proven? The cancer, genetic damage claims have been totally rubbished. Her claims regarding wiping out birds was vastly exaggerated. What they found was that with widespread use in agriculture DDT might weaken the egg shells of some birds which might lead to a reduction of successful births. In other species this was not the case. This is the most stinging indictment of DDT that has some evidence. But since the EPA ban, and the world following the US example, some 90+ million people have died for some egg shells.

The head of WHO's malaria program called on the European Union to promote the use of DDT in Africa. Many African countries stopped because the EU threatened to stop food exports from countries using the pesticide. In fact the EU is not protecting health at all. This is typical agricultural protectionism for Europe's tiny band of wealthy, pampered, subsidised farmers. (And if you ask me European farmers produce low quality food compared to other places in the world. Vegetables here are very poor quality and the meat, especially the beef, is not tasty or tender. I have little doubt that the protectionist measures are heavily involved in the lower quality of food found in Europe.)

While living in South Africa the government banned DDT use and switched to new compounds recommended by environmentalists. Within a few years the rate of infection from malaria had jumped tenfold. The country dropped those compounds and returned to using DDT and the infection rate dropped.