WSJ: DDT Saves Lives

The Wall Street Journal says DDT saves lives:

It’s horrifying enough that malaria — a preventable and curable disease — claims one million lives every year and that most victims are Africa’s pregnant women and children under five. Compounding this tragedy, however, is the global lobbying effort against the most effective method of combating the mosquito-borne illness: spraying outdoors and inside houses with the insecticide DDT.Thanks to Senator Sam Brownback, among others, that could change. The Kansas Republican has been fighting to include language in an appropriations bill that would force the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) to spend more money on the spraying of DDT…

Before granting the agency another $100 million or so for its 2006 malaria budget, Mr. Brownback wants assurances that AID will spend U.S. tax dollars on what works. We know DDT works because it’s how Europe and North America successfully eradicated malaria in the 1940s. And it’s how Greece and Sri Lanka and parts of South Africa combated the epidemic in later decades.

The perception — going back to Rachel Carson — that DDT spraying is dangerous has long since been debunked. An Environmental Protection Agency hearing as long ago as 1972 concluded that “DDT is not carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic to man” and that “these uses of DDT [to fight malaria] do not have a deleterious effect on fish, birds, wildlife, or estuarine organisms.”

A few individuals at green outfits like the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace have grudgingly started to admit that there is a place for DDT in malaria control. But their organizations — and the environmental community in general — continue to oppose the use of insecticides…

…Mr. Brownback’s efforts to correct this are meeting resistance from other Members of Congress, particularly in the House. The relevant appropriations bill is currently in House-Senate negotiations, and GOP Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona is chief among those pushing for watered-down language. His argument is that Congress should defer to the “experts” at AID and resist “micromanaging.” But if the agency has reached a point where it is allowing women and children to suffer and die rather than employ methods that work, it’s time for Congress to exercise some adult supervision.

Why don’t we see Jesse Jackson working this issue?Get lots more information about DDT here, or check out the “malaria clock.”

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