Friday, September 22, 2006

DDT can be used to save lives

The worldwide ban on DDT has been lifted. The ban killed tens of millions of people, mostly pregnant women and young children to malaria. Betsy McKay in the Wall Street Journal on 15 Sept 2006:
The World Health Organization, in a sign that widely used methods of fighting malaria have failed to bring the catastrophic disease under control, plans to announce today that it will encourage the use of DDT, even though the pesticide is banned or tightly restricted in much of the world. The new guidelines from the United Nations public-health agency support the spraying of small amounts of DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, on walls and other surfaces inside homes in areas at highest risk of malaria. The mosquito-borne disease infects as many as 500 million people a year and kills about a million. Most victims are in sub-Saharan Africa and under the age of 5.
Steven Milloy at Fox news analyzes the announcement:
Overlooked in all the hoopla over the announcement, however, is the terrible toll in human lives (tens of millions dead — mostly pregnant women and children under the age of 5), illness (billions sickened) and poverty (more than $1 trillion dollars in lost GDP in sub-Saharan Africa alone) caused by the tragic, decades-long ban.
Who did it?
It was, of course, then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator William Ruckelshaus who actually banned DDT after ignoring an EPA administrative law judge’s ruling that there was no evidence indicating that DDT posed any sort of threat to human health or the environment. Ruckleshaus never attended any of the agency’s hearings on DDT. He didn’t read the hearing transcripts and refused to explain his decision. None of this is surprising given that, in a May 22, 1971, speech before the Wisconsin Audubon Society, Ruckleshaus said that EPA procedures had been streamlined so that DDT could be banned. Ruckleshaus was also a member of — and wrote fundraising letters for — the EDF. The DDT ban solidified Ruckelshaus’ environmental credentials, which he has surfed to great success in business, including stints as CEO of Browning Ferris Industries and as a director of a number of other companies including Cummins Engine, Nordstrom, and Weyerhaeuser Company. Ruckelshaus currently is a principal in a Seattle, Wash., -based investment group called Madrona Venture Group.
Is there justice for what Ruckleshaus did?
Corporate wrongdoers — like WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers and Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski — were sentenced to prison for crimes against mere property. But what should the punishment be for government wrongdoers like Ruckleshaus who, apparently for the sake of his personal environmental interests, abused his power and affirmatively deprived billions of poor, helpless people of the only practical weapon against malaria?
PATH is a Seattle-area nonprofit to bring about solutions to health problems. They are encouraging and funding alternatives to DDT to combat malaria and they recognize the effectiveness of DDT.
While DDT is effective, there are alternatives, including a class of insecticides called synthetic pyrethroids, some of which are used to treat bed nets, says Kent Campbell, program director for MACEPA, a malaria control program at PATH, a Seattle nonprofit organization, and a former malaria branch chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The political debate over DDT impedes its effectiveness in preventing the disease, he adds. "It's extremely effective when used – as long as the discussion is not moved to pro or contra DDT," he adds.

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