Monday, June 20, 2005


As expected, Tim Lambert has sided with John Quiggin in the ongoing DDT fray (go here for my earlier post re Quiggin's original post, which refers to Rafe Champion's post).

First, a bit of Tim Lambert history. His blog shows a total of nine posts on DDT. The thrust of Lambert's posts is that anti-environmentalists are spreading a DDT hoax , or as Lambert calls it, The Great DDT Hoax:
Anti-environmentalist writers frequently claim that after DDT had all but eliminated malaria from Sri Lanka, environmentalist pressure forced Sri Lanka to ban DDT, leading to a resurgence of malaria...
The Great DDT Hoax has evolved somewhat over time to include any claims that DDT use is or was banned in general. (It should be noted that it is impossible for DDT to have been totally banned as India and China continued to manufacture and use DDT throughout. By ban, I am referring to an effective de facto ban resulting from pressure not to use DDT. Naturally, this de facto effective ban was neither total nor totally effective.)

Right, back to Lambert, who posted the following on 30 March 2005:
The latest folks to spread the DDT hoax are Kopel, Gallant and Eisen. They claim:
[Malaria] is a disaster manufactured by First World political correctness; DDT prohibition is scientifically indefensible, and is responsible for millions of deaths every year.
However, as explained in my posts on DDT, DDT is not banned from use against malaria, and while it is still helps against malaria in some places, it is not the panacea that Kopel et al make it out to be.
They also write
But rather than limiting DDT use, the United Nations is actively encouraging a worldwide ban on DDT.63
But reference 63 is to the Stockholm Convention on Persistant Organic Pollutants, which specifically exempts DDT use for vector control from the ban. Banning agricultural use of DDT greatly aids its use against malaria, since mosquitoes will be much less likely to develop resistance.
In comments I made Lambert aware of a Belmont Club post addressing some of the issues he had raised – due to Belmont Club's hosting problems at the time the link no longer works and I can't find the post. Anyway, Lambert replied:
Thanks for the tip. I guess I’ll do a post on Roberts’ tripe.
I responded:
Is Roberts’s Lancet article included in the “tripe”?
Lambert never did respond to Roberts's tripe, a Lancet article – Lambert loves Lancet, he must, he's made 45 posts on the 100,000 killed in Iraq Lancet study. Maybe he doesn't want to address the claims in Roberts's article because he's worried it will undermine Lancet's credibility, thus throwing a shadow over the 100,000 killed claim.

Regardless, Lambert's most recent post on The Great DDT Hoax follows:
John Quiggin catches Miranda Devine spreading the DDT Hoax in the Sun Herald. If DDT is banned, how come this company will sell you some? They say:
In the past several years, we supplied DDT 75% WDP to Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand, Myanmar for Malaria Control project, and won a good reputation from WHO and relevant countries’ government.
Yes, DDT is available but its use is forcefully discouraged as indicated by this edited news release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (my bold):
KAMPALA, 2 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - The European Union has cautioned Uganda against the use of an organic pollutant to control malaria, commonly known as DDT, warning that its use could pose dire consequences for exports to the European market.

"If Uganda is to use DDT for malaria control, it is advisable to do so under strictly controlled circumstances, and in consultation with other countries in the region which may be affected," the Brussels-based union said in a statement.

A parallel system to monitor foodstuffs for the presence of DDT also had to be set up. "This would ensure that any contamination of foodstuffs is detected and corrective measures taken," the EU noted. "Such measures would also address DDT-related health concerns of consumers both in Uganda and in export destinations."

Scientifically known as chlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane, DDT is toxic, persistent and bioacumulative in the tissues of living organisms, including man. Studies indicate that 50 percent of DDT can remain in the soil for 10 to 15 years after application.

"It has been detected in human breast milk, is acutely toxic to birds and highly toxic to fish," the EU statement pointed out. "There is therefore no doubt of DDT contamination of the food chain."

The EU head of delegation in Uganda, Sigurd Illing, told IRIN that Europe was Uganda's main market, accounting for over 30 percent of annual exports. Many of Uganda's exports to the EU are food-related, including fish, coffee and other agricultural products.

"We support the fight against malaria, and we are major contributors to the Global Fund on Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS," Illing said. "We just made a general warning that we want to see that all considerations are made before the spraying. Uganda also needs to decide why it should use DDT - is there no other alternative - because there could be many implications with DDT."

The government has indicated its readiness to use residual spraying in people's homes to reduce the incidence of malaria, but environmentalists have argued against the move.

"DDT is a dangerous organic pollutant," Ugandan MP Ken Lukyamuzi told IRIN. "If the government wants its use it in Uganda, it must first seek the sanction of fellow members of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP), which we ratified in July 2004."

Lukyamuzi questioned the rationale of spraying homes. "The government should explain why it should spray people's houses where mosquitoes do not breed," he told IRIN. "If they cannot, then they have no moral authority to spray people's houses. DDT was outlawed 50 years ago - it seems we are being taken back to the dark ages."
The EU was in effect trying to ban the use of DDT by the Ugandan government. Such anti-DDT pressure was even more intense in the lead up to the implementation of the ill-fated total DDT ban. So great was the pressure not to use DTT back then that in his Lancet article, Roberts et al
specifically refer to a ban and even use the heading, Consequences of the ban.In a 1997 article on DDT and malaria Roberts et al mention the pressures in passing:
Countries are banning or reducing the use of DDT because of continuous international and national pressures against DDT (e.g., the International Pesticide Action Network is "...working to stop the production, sale, and use..." of DDT [14]) and aggressive marketing tactics of producers of more expensive alternative insecticides. It has become easier for political pressures to succeed given the global strategy to deemphasize use of the house-spray approach to malaria control. A recent agreement of the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation for eliminating the production and use of DDT in Mexico within the next 10 years3 is the latest development in the campaign to eliminate DDT.
Less scientific but nonetheless telling is this from the 14 December 2000 Economist:
The widespread use of DDT in the 1950s and 1960s all but eliminated malaria in several developing countries and saved an estimated 500m lives by 1970. Since then, the use of the stuff has shrunk. Of the roughly 100 countries where malaria is endemic, only 23 now employ DDT to fight the disease. And that is frequently the fault of aid donors who help to finance the battle against malaria.

In the early 1990s, for example, the United States Agency for International Development stopped the governments of Bolivia and Belize from using DDT. In Madagascar, the United Nations Development Programme tried to persuade the government to replace DDT with Propoxur, a less effective pesticide. To its credit, Madagascar refused. In Mozambique, both NORAD, the Norwegian development agency, and SIDA, its Swedish counterpart, said that they could not support the use of DDT, as it was banned in their own countries. That the problems of a desperately poor malarial country in Africa might be somewhat different from those of wealthy, non-malarial Scandinavia seems not to have occurred to them.
There's also this from the British Medical Journal:
Alternatives to DDT house spraying can substitute in some cases but not all cases. Case detection and treatment can help to lower mortality from malaria but can never stop morbidity that does not present in clinic. Insecticide treated bed nets, although promising, will often have the limitation that they protect one or two people under the net and not the entire household. Integrated vector management, an ecological approach against mosquitoes touted by DDT's opponents,6 is as yet only an experimental strategy that has never been used in a national malaria control programme (for the 33 years since 1966, Medline, Biological Abstracts and CAB Abstracts list only 19 references on integrated vector management or control). And while house spraying with alternative insecticides to DDT can work, it is often fraught with insecticide resistance, and costs double or morea real constraint in African countries, where the health ministry's budget may be less than £3 per person.

South Africa illustrates these limitations in practice. Facing pressure from environmentalists, the national malaria control programme abandoned DDT in favour of more expensive pyrethroid insecticides in 1996. Within three years, pyrethroid resistant A funestus mosquitoes invaded KwaZulu-Natal province, where they had not been seen since DDT spraying began in the 1940s. Malaria cases then promptly soared, from just 4117 cases in 1995 to 27 238 cases in 1999 (or possibly 120 000 cases, judging by pharmacy records). Other provinces experienced similar catastrophes, and South Africa was forced to return to DDT spraying this year. It had little alternative: no other insecticide, at any price, was known to be equally effective.
Clearly there was an effective de facto ban on the use of DDT. This ban was neither total nor totally effective but it was a ban nonetheless.

It is worth noting that all of the above, except the UN news release, are linked at the Malaria Foundation International homepage. Quiggin and Lambert aren't silly enough to suggest that MFI is a corporate tool, are they?


Anonymous Jorgen said...

Good work!

11:39 PM  

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