DDT: DANGER OR DEMOGRAPHIC TOOL?

“‘Every day, the number of kids dying of malaria equals seven Boeing 747s going down.’ DDT can fix that.” (Wente).

Malaria is the leading cause of death of the African youth under five (Wente). DDT is an insecticide which can effectively reduce the outbreak of malaria by diminishing the transmitter, mosquitoes. DDT was used widely and successfully until its ban in 1972 when the First World countries disabled Africa from utilizing DDT to manage their malaria pandemic. Although DDT is efficient in irradiating the insects, it causes negative environmental impacts. The toxicity of DDT is magnified through the food chains of infected animals, plants and collects in the fat tissues of humans. To avoid the detrimental environmental effects while still protecting the population from malaria, indoor residual spraying can be used to reduce outbreak.

The use of DDT has been banned by many governments and world wide organizations who have determined the environmental ramifications of DDT outweigh the effectiveness of the insecticide in preventing malaria. Since the Third World can not fund these treatments, they rely upon the judgment and action of the First World to assist them. The capability of these major powers to withhold a pertinent treatment of malaria to Africa disables the continent from experiencing population growth which debilitates development. The use of DDT as an insecticide for indoor spraying in Africa would enable population growth without the hazardous environmental affects. The First World must authorize the use of DDT to resolve health, social and developmental problems in the continent.

Despite DDT’s effectiveness in reducing malaria outbreaks, it is very damaging to the environment and humans in contact with the insecticide. DDT is a powerful and effective insecticide which can be used to control insect borne diseases which are transmitted to humans including malaria and typhus (Roberts 302). When DDT is sprayed in the external environment, all living things are affected. DDT hinders the formation of egg shells in bird and fish species (Phelps 759). In mammals, the toxicity is stored in fat tissue and it weakens estrogen activity resulting in fetal development interference (Phelps 759). With extensive use of the insecticide, many insects can become immune to its effectiveness, thereby deeming the spray futile (Nabarro 2067). The residual affects of such a powerful spray are evident in damaged agricultural crop and toxic runoff into water. (Carson 16). The power of insecticides such as DDT is held in their biological potency where the toxicity penetrates the most basic aspects of biological functioning (Carson 25). The environmental effects coupled with the increased awareness of the dangers of DDT prompted the world wide ban in 1972 (Phelps 759). The World Wildlife Fund was very supportive of this eradication due to the extensive damages done to the environment (Roberts 302). The UN was also committed to using a less destructive approach to manage malaria in the Third World (Phelps 759). This culmination of the destructive affects of DDT on the environment constituted the ban of the insecticide’s use despite any benefits obtained in preventing malaria.

Although the aforementioned negative affects of DDT should be considered, the effectiveness of malaria control can still be achieved through indoor residual spraying (Roberts 302). Indoor residual spraying is effective because it achieves the purpose of killing mosquitoes indoors without suffering the consequences outdoors (Forbes 27).

When utilized in Gayana, 56% of infant mortalities and 99% of malaria outbreaks were reduced due to the indoor spraying (Roberts 302). Through indoor spraying, the nesting and resting zones of the mosquitoes are targeted, thereby eliminating the source before they hatch (Roberts 302). Indoor spraying of DDT is a realistic resource for Africa because it embodies the social and economic needs of the country by being cheap and effective which is important to consider in providing aid for a developing country. ‘…we should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us.’ (Carson 244). In this excerpt, Carson identifies the dangers of using potent insecticides in the environment and urges the use of another method. While the use of indoor residual spraying utilizes the same potent chemicals, it doesn’t expose them to an environment which can be damaged. Alternative methods attempted in addressing malaria including bed netting are not as effective or as cheap as DDT (Roberts 302). Due to the lack of unity between the different supporters, the efforts and costs were not unified which decreases the efficiency. The effectiveness of DDT in the context of fighting malaria is irrefutable, and indoor spraying provides an environmentally friendly alternative. The safe administration of DDT through indoor spraying would be effective in fighting malaria if DDT was available to the affected countries.

The control of DDT by the First World and external powers has not only disabled Africa from fighting malaria, but also from growing a population large enough to sustain development socially and economically. Africa is caught in a vicious circle. Africa’s inability to fund their own malaria relief results in ineffective treatment from external powers which further contributes to their poor economy. A successful intervention of the First World in this cycle would be in assisting them to reduce their early death toll through the use of indoor DDT spraying. The incapability to grow a population due to death from malaria in the early stages of childhood creates a void in the population which is not conducive to development (Nabarro 2067). Subsequent affects of malaria include huge expenditures and burdens on the health system and a removed portion of the population who are able to be educated and work (Nabarro 2067). Without a strong educated population, the economy will never strengthen to rise out of poverty. Therefore, by denying Africa access to DDT, the First World is hindering the development of African countries and maintaining the developmental and economic gap which exists between them.

The First World is responsible for funding malaria relief in Third World countries and they have decided that the environmental impacts of DDT outweigh the pandemic efficiency. Alternative methods have been introduced but not with the same effectual unity as DDT. Indoor residual spraying of DDT minimizes the environmental damage while maximizing the humanistic advantages. If the use of indoor residual spraying were utilized by the Third World, it would lead towards regaining population to sustain continental development socially and economically.

References

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962.

Forbes, Steve. “Why Do We Let So Many Die From Malaria?.” Forbes 27 Feb. 2006: 27+. Academic Search Premier. 17 November 2006.

Nabarro, David N., and Elizabeth M. Taylor. “The “Roll Back Malaria” Campaign.” Science 280.5372 (1998): 2067-2068. JSTOR. U of British Columbia. link.

Phelps, Jerry. “Headliners: Reproductive Toxicants.” Environmental Health Perspectives 111.14 (2003): 759. JSTOR. U of British Columbia. link.

Roberts, Donald R. “DDT Risk Assessments.” Environmental Health Perspectives 109.7 (2001): 302. JSTOR. U of British Columbia. link.

Wente, Margaret. “DDT’s Return is a Good Thing. Really.” The Globe and Mail 23 Sept. 2006. 30 Oct. 2006.

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terryman

Zoë Evans is a first year arts student at UBC. In her first year she has been apart of the Foundations in Ecology and Sustainability Coordinated Arts Program which she has really enjoyed. Although her major is still undetermined, she intends to continue to study the interdisciplinary relationship between nature and culture in her coming years at UBC.

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