RE: [ujeni] Malaria and DDT again
18 April 2004
Dear Webers and all,
I was intrigued by your DDT information. I have long wondered about the cost of no DDT (as in the human cost, malaria deaths, and so on) versus the costs of using DDT (as in long term environmental accumulation), AND whether the balance sheet might have shown the cost of using DDT would have been less than the cost of not using it.
If I remember my history studies with a bit of accuracy, malaria was endemic in this country in the 19th century and earlier. But we drained the swamps, channeled the rivers, and sprayed the mosquitos. We certainly have reaped some long term environmental costs (ie. Apparently permanent changes in wetlands, river courses, and of course the near eradication of Malaria in this country.) How do those costs compare with the benefits of healthier people and an environment which is for the most part more “friendly” to people?
Yesterday I happened upon a copy of RANGE, a quarterly magazine marketed to ranchers and whoever is interested. (www.rangemagazine.com) It was an interesting read. The following article is in the current (Spring 2004) issue: (The spring issue does not appear to be available online yet, but should soon.)
“What really scares a scary story writer? Michael Crichton fesses up, in San Francisco.” By Julian Stone, page 26,27
This article is not about DDT, but includes the quote:
“Blind faith is, in fact, deadly, he [Crichton] argued. ‘We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed between 10 to 30 million people since the 1970’s.’ He cited especially the ban on the insecticide DDT, resulting in tens of millions of deaths especially among the poor in third world countries.
“’I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn’t a carcinogen and banned it anyway….Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die and didn’t give a damn’.”
End of quote.
When I was a volunteer in Calcutta 1964-66 I was assigned for a short time to Jalpaiguri. I had a comfortable place to stay which included a sleeping platform on 4 legs where I could roll out my sleeping bag, which I did, and which I faithfully covered with my mosquito net to keep out the irksome biting creatures. It was nice not to sleep on the concrete floor. But the biting creatures came anyway. Not mosquitos. They were bed bugs. Now this was a solid wood platform without any apparent hiding place for bedbugs. After two nights of trying to kill bedbugs I gave up. The next day I began to dismantle the bed and upon turning it over I discovered one of the legs was hollowed out for a few inches at the bottom end of the leg. A perfect hiding place. That very morning I went to the market, bought some DDT powder and treated the hollow leg. No more bedbugs. I slept comfortably and am still alive. I do wonder what my autopsy would show but a half century of living isn’t too bad. I think I am more likely to expire from an automobile accident than anything else at the moment.
I searched a bit and came up with more interesting stuff. Point number 11 is a must read.
Junkscience.com -- Main Page
100 things you should know about DDT. by J. Gordon Edwards and Steven Milloy.
I. Historical Background II. Advocacy against DDT III. EPA hearings IV. ...
www.junkscience.com/ddtfaq.htm - 66k - Cached - Similar pages
Discovered by accident, DDT became one of the greatest public health tools of the 20th century.
Overuse harmed its efficacy -- and made it politically unpopular.
1. Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) was first synthesized, for no purpose, in 1874 by German chemist Othmar Zeidler. In 1939, Dr. Paul Müller independently produced DDT. Müller found that DDT quickly killed flies, aphids, mosquitoes, walking sticks and Colorado potato beetles. Müller and the Geigy corporation patented DDT in Switzerland (1940), England (1942) and U.S. (1943).
2. The first large-scale use of DDT occurred in 1943 when 500 gallons of DDT were produced by Merck & Company and delivered to Italy to help squelch a rapidly spreading epidemic of louse-borne typhus. Later in 1943, the U.S. Army issued small tin boxes of 10 percent DDT dust to its soldiers around the world who used it to kill body lice, head lice and crab lice.
3. Müller won the Nobel Prize in 1948 for his work on DDT.
4. Peak usage occurred in 1962, when 80 million kilograms of DDT were used and 82 million kilograms produced.
5. "In May 1955 the Eighth World Health Assembly adopted a Global Malaria Eradication Campaign based on the widespread use of DDT against mosquitos and of antimalarial drugs to treat malaria and to eliminate the parasite in humans. As a result of the Campaign, malaria was eradicated by 1967 from all developed countries where the disease was endemic and large areas of tropical Asia and Latin America were freed from the risk of infection. The Malaria Eradication Campaign was only launched in three countries of tropical Africa since it was not considered feasible in the others. Despite these achievements, improvements in the malaria situation could not be maintained indefinitely by time-limited, highly prescriptive and centralized programmes."
[Bull World Health Organ 1998;76(1):11-6]
6. "To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT... In little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that otherwise would have been inevitable."
[National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Research in the Life Sciences of the Committee on Science and Public Policy. 1970. The Life Sciences; Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs; The World of Biological Research; Requirements for the Future.]
7. It is believed that [malaria] afflicts between 300 and 500 million every year, causing up to 2.7 million deaths, mainly among children under five years.
[Africa News, January 27, 1999]
8. Some mosquitoes became "resistant" to DDT. "There is persuasive evidence that antimalarial operations did not produce mosquito resistance to DDT. That crime, and in a very real sense it was a crime, can be laid to the intemperate and inappropriate use of DDT by farmers, espeially cotton growers. They used the insecticide at levels that would accelerate, if not actually induce, the selection of a resistant population of mosquitoes."
[Desowitz, RS. 1992. Malaria Capers, W.W. Norton & Company]
9. "Resistance" may be a misleading term when discussing DDT and mosquitoes. While some mosquitoes develop biochemical/physiological mechanisms of resistance to the chemical, DDT also can provoke strong avoidance behavior in some mosquitoes so they spend less time in areas where DDT has been applied -- this still reduces mosquito-human contact. "This avoidance behavior, exhibited when malaria vectors avoid insecticides by not entering or by rapidly exiting sprayed houses, should raise serious questions about the overall value of current physiological and biochemical resistance tests. The continued efficacy of DDT in Africa, India, Brazil, and Mexico, where 69% of all reported cases of malaria occur and where vectors are physiologically resistant to DDT (excluding Brazil), serves as one indicator that repellency is very important in preventing indoor transmission of malaria."
[See, e.g., J Am Mosq Control Assoc 1998 Dec;14(4):410-20; and Am J Trop Med Hyg 1994;50(6 Suppl):21-34]
DDT was demagogued out of use.
10. Rachel Carson sounded the initial alarm against DDT, but represented the science of DDT erroneously in her 1962 book Silent Spring. Carson wrote "Dr. DeWitt's now classic experiments [on quail and pheasants] have now established the fact that exposure to DDT, even when doing no observable harm to the birds, may seriously affect reproduction. Quail into whose diet DDT was introduced throughout the breeding season survived and even produced normal numbers of fertile eggs. But few of the eggs hatched." DeWitt's 1956 article (in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry) actually yielded a very different conclusion. Quail were fed 200 parts per million of DDT in all of their food throughout the breeding season. DeWitt reports that 80% of their eggs hatched, compared with the "control"" birds which hatched 83.9% of their eggs. Carson also omitted mention of DeWitt's report that "control" pheasants hatched only 57 percent of their eggs, while those that were fed high levels of DDT in all of their food for an entire year hatched more than 80% of their eggs.
11. Population control advocates blamed DDT for increasing third world population. In the 1960s, World Health Organization authorities believed there was no alternative to the overpopulation problem but to assure than up to 40 percent of the children in poor nations would die of malaria. As an official of the Agency for International Development stated, "Rather dead than alive and riotously reproducing."
[Desowitz, RS. 1992. Malaria Capers, W.W. Norton & Company]
12. The environmental movement used DDT as a means to increase their power. Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, commented, "If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before.. In a sense, much more is at stake than DDT."
[Seattle Times, October 5, 1969]
13. Science journals were biased against DDT. Philip Abelson, editor of Science informed Dr. Thomas Jukes that Science would never publish any article on DDT that was not antagonistic.
14. William Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who made the ultimate decision to ban DDT in 1972, was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund. Ruckelshaus solicited donations for EDF on his personal stationery that read "EDF's scientists blew the whistle on DDT by showing it to be a cancer hazard, and three years later, when the dust had cleared, EDF had won."
15. But as an assistant attorney general, William Ruckelshaus stated on August 31, 1970 in a U.S. Court of Appeals that "DDT has an amazing an exemplary record of safe use, does not cause a toxic response in man or other animals, and is not harmful. Carcinogenic claims regarding DDT are unproven speculation." But in a May 2, 1971 address to the Audubon Society, Ruckelshaus stated, "As a member of the Society, myself, I was highly suspicious of this compound, to put it mildly. But I was compelled by the facts to temper my emotions ... because the best scientific evidence available did not warrant such a precipitate action. However, we in the EPA have streamlined our administrative procedures so we can now suspend registration of DDT and the other persistent pesticides at any time during the period of review." Ruckelshaus later explained his ambivalence by stating that as assistant attorney general he was an advocate for the government, but as head of the EPA he was "a maker of policy."
[Barrons, 10 November 1975]
There is more, the list includes one hundred points.
Now I have another question. What does it matter to a sovereign nation what the “donors” will or will not pay for? If DDT is reasonably easy and inexpensive to manufacture why does not some third world country make it and use it?
Cheers to all,
From: Weber [mailto:weber@...]
Sent: Monday, 12 April, 2004 13:21
Subject: [ujeni] Malaria and DDT again
Hey, here's a shorter version and good summary from the UN Wire.... for those of you without the spare time nor inclination to read 6 pages.
On DDT, Malaria Loses To Environment, Newspaper Says
Monday, April 12, 2004
Although DDT remains the most effective weapon against malaria, opposition to the insecticide in developed nations, particularly the United States, has meant that donor-funded campaigns to fight the disease have all but ignored it as an option, according to an analysis in yesterday's New York Times.
While malaria has been virtually eradicated in the developed world, it kills an estimated 2 million people globally each year. Most are children under 5 and 90 percent of them are in Africa, the Times says.
South Africa, which does not rely on donor support for its malaria programs, has beaten the disease by spraying DDT on the interior walls of houses once a year in affected regions. Only 12 cases of malaria were treated in the South African town of Ndumo last year after DDT was used, compared with over 9,000 in the year 2000, when South Africa briefly abandoned DDT for another insecticide to which mosquitoes developed resistance.
South Africa's experience is similar to that of other countries, including Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Swaziland and Belize, where the abandonment of DDT in the 1960s and 1970s caused a resurgence of malaria. Those countries that then relaunched DDT spraying saw their epidemics controlled.
Spraying houses with the insecticide is not always possible, as it works only against mosquitoes that bite indoors and requires ambitious programs to organize, train and equip sprayers.
Even when spraying is possible, however, developed nations refuse to pay for it, according to the Times, largely because of the perception in the West that DDT is a toxic chemical that harms the environment and human health.
With the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, in which environmentalist Rachel Carson detailed how DDT traveled up the food chain to kill birds, fish and other animal species, people in the United States and elsewhere resoundingly rejected the pesticide.
Providing funding for its use would require fighting public opinion. "You'd have to explain to everybody why this is really OK and safe every time you do it," said Anne Peterson, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Largely as a result, the Times says, just five other countries besides South Africa use DDT for routine malaria control and about 10 more for emergencies.
Instead of spraying, donor nations promote the use of insecticide-treated bed nets. The nets, according to the Times, are useful against malaria but have significant drawbacks. They are expensive — ranging from about $2 to $10 — and require regular retreatment.
"I cannot envision the possibility of rolling back malaria without the power of DDT," said Renato Gusmao, who headed anti-malaria programs at the Pan American Health Organization. "Impregnated bed nets are an auxiliary. In tropical Africa, if you don't use DDT, forget it."
Donor countries also shy away from DDT because they fear promoting a double standard, according to the Times. "For us to be buying and using in another country something we don't allow in our own country raises the specter of preferential treatment," said Peterson. "We certainly have to think about: 'What would the American people think and want?' and 'What would Africans think if we're going to do to them what we wouldn't do to our own people?'"
A dearth of contributions to fight malaria has meant that countries employ ineffective malaria cures. The drug chloroquine is the most popular treatment, which, while cheap, fails up to 80 percent of the time. New, effective drugs are available, but at a much higher price of $.40 for a child's treatment and $1.50 for an adult's, and only a handful of Africa's 42 malaria-endemic countries have made the switch.
South Africa's success has led some African countries, including Uganda and Kenya, to reconsider DDT, however, a move that the Times says donors should encourage.
"DDT is a victim of its success, having so thoroughly eliminated malaria in wealthy nations that we forget why we once needed it," the paper says. "But malaria kills Africans today. Those worried about the arrogance of playing God should realize that we have forged an instrument of salvation, and we choose to hide it under our robes" (Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, April 11).