Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Malaria the unnecessary scourge

Few Americans can begin to comprehend the horror and scope of this disaster. Malaria infects 300,000,000 people a year -- and kills 2,000,000. Most are in sub-Saharan Africa. Over half are children. Malaria control costs Africa, India, Latin America and other affected areas billions of dollars annually, depleting other health and environmental programs.....

A major reason for this epidemic and its devastating consequences is a near-global restriction on the production, export and use of DDT. The restrictions result from intense pressure by ideological environmentalists and threats by the United Nations, European Union, foundations and aid agencies to cut foreign aid or curtail trade with any nation that uses the insecticide.

Of course, none of these activists, bureaucrats or politicians have to worry about malaria killing them or their families. They can afford their viewpoints about malaria and pesticides. Their nations eliminated malaria decades ago, using the same pesticides (including DDT) that they now deny to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Nothing currently works better for fighting malaria than DDT. It's affordable (other pesticides cost 4 to 6 times more), and that's important for impoverished nations. It's long lasting. A single spraying retains its potency for at least six months, meaning more dangerous pesticides do not have to be applied more often. And mosquitoes are far less likely to build resistance to DDT than to other pesticides, which are still used heavily in agriculture.

Sprayed in tiny amounts on walls of traditional African homes, it repels mosquitoes for six months or more. It kills any that land on the walls, and disorients those it does not kill or repel. Where DDT is used, malaria cases and deaths plummet. Where it is not used, they skyrocket.

South Africa saw that first-hand not long ago, report Richard Tren and Roger Bate of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria. The country stopped using DDT in 1996, after malaria rates had fallen below 8,000 a year. Within two years, the rates had shot up to 65,000 cases. But within 18 months after Pretoria reintroduced this miracle pesticide, the disease and death rate had plunged by nearly 80 percent.

Despite rampant, far-fetched claims straight out of a Stephen King novel, DDT is not carcinogenic or harmful to humans. Used properly, it is safe for the environment, and minor ecological risks that might exist pale in comparison to human health benefits.

DDT History

During World War II, DDT was sprayed on Allied troops, protecting them from malaria and typhus, and saving tens of thousands of lives. After the war, concentration camp survivors and Italian and German citizens were also sprayed with the pesticide. In the 1950s, DDT helped eradicate malaria and typhus in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and other countries. No ill effects were ever demonstrated, but no one talks any longer about spraying people.

Rachel Carson helped launch modern environmentalism and the anti-pesticide crusade with her book, Silent Spring. At the time, DDT was used in near-massive quantities to control agricultural pests and exterminate disease-carrying flies and mosquitoes. Ms. Carson postulated that these chemicals would kill off America's raptors and songbirds, leaving us with only a silent spring. However, even as her book was being published, robin and other songbird populations were actually increasing, and subsequent studies failed to substantiate her alarmist predictions.

Nevertheless, the Natural Resources Defense Council (which also sponsored the infamous Alar scare), Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other pressure groups still insist that pesticides in general, and DDT in particular, are terribly toxic to wildlife. Along with the United Nations Environmental Program, they do all they can to prevent the use of DDT and other pesticides.

Hollywood elites and big donors like the Ford, Pew, MacArthur and Schumann foundations support these groups with tens of millions of dollars a year. The World Health Organization refuses to prescribe, recommend or fund the use of any pesticide, and is particularly opposed to DDT.

Instead, they all promote drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets. These methods do help reduce malaria rates. However, they are expensive, hard to get and only partially effective. In fact, for some 20 years or more, the malaria parasite has been so immune to two of the cheapest and most-prescribed anti-malarial drugs, chloroquine and SP, as to render them virtually worthless. As to bed nets, while they certainly do help at night, if maintained and used properly, they are of no value during prime mosquito hours for people who are still working or moving about their homes and villages.

And still the WHO, supposedly the developing world's primary healthcare provider, refuses to alter its stance -- and the US Agency for International Development claims it can't support or fund DDT use, because the WHO opposes it, and the United States no longer permits its use.....

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