New Study Shows Tragic Consequences of Environmentalists' Campaign to Ban DDT
Next week, government officials from around the world will meet in Stockholm to sign the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), an international treaty that bans or greatly restricts the use of 12 chemicals. Included in the list of chemicals to be restricted is DDT, which has saved millions of lives and remains the most cost-effective way to prevent malaria, a disease that kills up to 3 million people every year.
The new study, by Roger Bate and Richard Tren, documents the attempt by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and WWF, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to ban the so-called 'dirty dozen' chemicals. A ban on DDT use would have had an enormous human cost. However, due to fierce lobbying by humanitarian NGOs, DDT was given a partial exemption.
"The DDT exemption from the POPs treaty comes at the great relief of public health doctors in poor countries and humanitarians everywhere," says Dr Bate.
Yet, even as it stands, the agreement will adversely affect poor countries. Bate notes that, "While the POPs treaty allows signatory countries a DDT exemption for vector control, UNEP's strict reporting requirements will burden poor countries instead of allowing them the choice to use the chemical in their public health programmes."
Bate says, "Negative perceptions from wealthy countries frustrate the use of DDT in disease control. Millions of people suffer and die from malaria every year. Unfortunately, the POPs treaty will only hamper poor countries' ability to effectively address and control the disease."
Malaria and the DDT Story provides an insight into the history of DDT's use to control malaria and the politics surrounding its use. Key points are:
Malaria has long plagued mankind, and was only brought under control with the development of medical and chemical technologies in the 20th century.
A worldwide campaign to eradicate malaria with DDT spraying programmes after World War II nearly eliminated the disease in many poor countries.
Environmental fears lead to the banning of DDT in wealthy countries.
Donor agencies and environmental groups from wealthy countries then pressured poor country governments to stop using DDT for malaria control.
When used to control malarial mosquitoes, DDT has no observable effects on human health and its effects on the environment are negligible.
Partly because of restrictions on the use of DDT, malaria rates are now increasing in poor countries.
DDT spraying remains the most cost-effective solution for poor countries to prevent malaria.
Malaria and the DDT Story by Roger Bate and Richard Tren, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB, price £10.
Dr Roger Bate is Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs; Richard Tren is Director of Africa Fighting Malaria, a humanitarian charity based in South Africa.
For more information, including copies of Malaria and the DDT Story, or to arrange an interview with Dr Bate, please contact Kendra Okonski: Phone: 020-7799-8921 or email: email@example.com.
Copies will also be available for download at www.fightingmalaria.org
Dr Bate will be speaking about the study in a lecture on 21 May. See below.