by Marjorie Mazel Hecht
EIR June 18, 2004
appears in the June 18, 2004 issue of Executive
Spurred by the
dramatic and life-saving results in a few African
nations that persisted in using DDT, a larger group of
nations, now malaria-ravaged, want to use the banned
The use of DDT for spraying the inside walls of houses, a proven way
to quickly stop the rate of malaria incidence, is making a comeback
in African nations where saving lives has been given priority over
the fears and lies of environmentalists.
In Uganda, Minister of Health Brigadier Jim Muhwezi has
renewed house spraying in the most malarious areas, with the
approval of the Ugandan Cabinet.
Muhwezi dismissed the critics of DDT,
"How many people must die of malaria
while these debates continue? If DDT can save lives, why not use
it as we wait for the alternatives," as reported in the Kampala
newspaper, New Vision, on April 27.
Muhwezi also noted that the country of
Mauritius was about to be declared malaria free because of its use
In Zambia, where malaria incidence and deaths had climbed since the
1980s, the Health Minister is aggressively pursuing the use of DDT
to fight malaria, after great success using DDT in the copper mining
areas beginning in 2000. When the Konkola Copper Mines began
spraying the inside walls of houses with DDT, there was a 50%
reduction of malaria in one year. The next year, there was a further
50% reduction, and since then there have been no malaria deaths in
In Zimbabwe, Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa reintroduced DDT
because it was,
"cheap and more effective, with a
longer residual killing power."
He told the Bulawayo Chronicle
in October 2003,
"So many people have died of malaria since
January and we are doing our best to control it... DDT is very
effective, because it sticks for a long time on the walls and
kills a lot of mosquitoes with a single spray... South Africa
and Swaziland are using it, and I don't see why we should not
In Kenya, the DDT fight is still on,
with the director of Kenya's premier research institute, KEMRI,
taking a strong stand for the use of DDT, and another research
institute, the International Center of Insect Physiology and
Ecology, taking the anti-DDT, environmentalist view.
Malaria now kills 700 Kenyans a day, and
as KEMRI director Davy Koech told the opposition,
"Anything that can reduce malaria
deaths by 80% should be given another thought."
Kenya had a terrible outbreak of malaria
after heavy rains in 2002, with hundreds of deaths.
According to the
group Doctors without Borders, there are about 8.2 million cases of
malaria reported in Kenya per year. The epidemic-prone areas are the
highlands, where about 23% of the population lives.
South Africa made the decision to bring back DDT in the year 2000,
after a four-year hiatus in its use, during which time the malaria
cases and death rates surged in the worst epidemic in the country's
In 1996, South Africa had substituted a synthetic
pyrethroid insecticide for DDT, under pressure from
environmentalists. But the mosquitoes became resistant to this
pesticide. As a result, between 1996 and 2000, the number of malaria
cases in South Africa increased by more than 450%, with an increased
mortality rate of nearly 1,000%!
After one year of DDT use, the incidence of malaria in the worst-hit
province, KwaZulu Natal, fell by 80%.
in Guyana. The British medical journal The Lancet reported that no
adverse effects of DDT were ever experienced by the 130,000 spraymen
or the 535 million
people living in sprayed houses during 1959.
The DDT program for malaria control has
the support of South Africa's leading researchers, doctors, and
malaria control experts, who released a statement in April 2004
backing the indoor spraying program, and slamming the latest
permutation in the DDT scare stories, that DDT lowers sperm levels
The statement notes,
"We believe that the Department of
Health is correct in its choice of DDT in its malaria control
program, and as scientists, medical practitioners, and public
health professionals, endorse its use."
Killed by the Big Lie
It may seem only rational when people are dying by the thousands,
and when malaria kills one African child every 30 seconds, for a
country to institute DDT house spraying, which is known to
efficiently prevent malaria, and has a proven record of no harm to
But such an assumption overlooks the
huge aura of fear and ignorance about DDT, built up by the
Malthusian lobby over the past 35 years. The very word "DDT" is
enough to invoke terror today among the ignorant and gullible—and
also some of the well-meaning.
DDT was banned in the United States in 1972 on the basis of a big
lie, not science (see box below). In fact, the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency held seven months of hearings on the issue,
producing 9,000 pages of testimony.
The EPA hearing examiner, Edmund
Sweeney, ruled, on the basis of the scientific evidence, that
DDT should not be banned.
"DDT is not carcinogenic, mutagenic,
or teratogenic to man [and] these uses of DDT do not have a
deleterious effect on fish, birds, wildlife, or estuarine
organisms," Sweeney concluded.
But two months later, without even
reading the testimony or attending the hearings, EPA administrator
William Ruckelshaus overruled the EPA hearing officer and banned
DDT. He later admitted that he made the decision for "political"
The effect of Ruckelshaus's political decision was to thrust new
anti-DDT groups (like the Environmental Defense Fund) into
well-funded prominence; to remove DDT from the list of pesticides
that U.S. agencies would fund abroad; and to increase the malaria
death rates in tropical countries.
The U.S. Agency for International
Development stopped supporting programs involving DDT (and instead
increased funding for birth control programs).
Other industrial nations did the same.
As a result, just as a few African nations and other tropical
countries were on the verge of wiping out malaria, by using DDT to
control the mosquito vectors that spread it, those programs were
shut down. Countries could not afford to give up the funds for their
health and development programs, from donor nations that now would
not support DDT.
Instead, they gave up DDT.
malaria-carrying mosquitoes were the immediate beneficiaries, and
malaria soon became Africa's largest killer, only more recently to
be equaled by AIDS. There are an estimated 300-500 million new cases
of malaria per year now, 90% of which are in Africa.
There are 2.7 million deaths from
malaria per year, mostly those of children under 5 years old.
Source: Adapted from
the British Medical Journal, May 8, 2004.
Annual deaths from malaria worldwide are far higher than in 1998,
when the Roll Back
Malaria campaign was initiated.
It promised to halve
the number of malaria deaths by 2010,
and a United Nations
resolution declared 2001-2010
“the Decade to Roll
Back Malaria, especially in Africa.”
But the toll of malaria is not measured
simply in deaths. Malaria is a terrible disease, sapping the
strength of those who do not die, making them feverish, chilled,
with repeated vomiting, and too sick and weak to work or farm.
Malaria overburdens the limited health
systems of poor countries, and ruins their economies.
Too Many Lives Saved?
At the time DDT was banned, it was recognized as having saved more
lives than any other man-made chemical. The U.S. National Academy of
Sciences estimated that DDT had prevented 500 million human deaths
from malaria, since it came into use during World War II. Millions
of troops and refugees would have died from disease at the end of
the war, had they not been dusted with DDT to kill the body lice
that spread typhus.
The safety record of DDT was excellent. No human harm was ever
documented. Health records around the world showed that when malaria
incidence was controlled using DDT, populations were healthier,
infant mortality decreased, and population growth increased.
DDT banned, after such spectacular success?
The reason was given bluntly by
Alexander King, founder of the Malthusian
Club of Rome, who wrote in a
biographical essay in 1990,
"My chief quarrel with DDT in
hindsight is that it has greatly added to
The DDT battle in Africa today is still
against that Malthusian outlook expressed so bluntly by Alexander
Today, however, most of the opponents of
DDT don't openly argue that we should kill off the "surplus" people;
instead they argue that we must protect the environment, keep Africa
In the words of one Ugandan living in Toronto, writing an
open letter to Uganda's President against the use of DDT:
"Mr. President, Uganda retains
relatively pristine lakes and rivers and beautiful landscapes
that yield abundant food supplies for domestic consumption and
export. Moreover, Uganda is currently a leader in organic
farming of desirable products such as the succulent pineapples
grown in Kangulaumira in Kayunga District, and the banana in
Mukono district. By avoiding the use of pesticides and
fertilizers, Uganda is poised to break into European and North
American markets where organic food products fetch exorbitant
This market argument is expressed by DDT
opponents throughout the region: European restrictions on pesticide
residues mean that African countries will have to monitor for
chemical residues—and lose export markets for all kinds of exports,
including fish and tobacco, if there are DDT residues.
This argument is fallacious. The point of spraying the inside walls
of houses is that a very limited amount (2 grams per square meter)
of DDT is used in a solution that is carefully controlled. (This is
called indoor residual house spraying, or IRS.)
There is no DDT sprayed outside. As
studies have shown, the mosquito vectors that carry malaria (in
South Africa it is
Anopheles funestus) rest on the inside house
walls and bite human beings at night.
These mosquitoes either are killed by
contact with DDT on the sprayed wall, or repelled by the DDT, and do
not stay around to bite the inhabitants.
A typical malaria
victim in 1950, before DDT was widely used.
The child’s spleen is enormously enlarged,
one of the symptoms of
This latter effect is known as "excito-repellency,"
and has been shown to be a dominant way that DDT controls
malaria-bearing mosquitoes, in addition to killing them on contact.
Morally, the save-the-environment-and-forget-the-people
argument is outrageous.
The First Secretary at the Washington
Embassy of one large African nation, said,
"how can they say this when people
are dying of malaria, and we know that DDT will contain the
He recalled the 1960s, when he was
growing up in Africa, when DDT was in use and had completely wiped
out mosquitoes and malaria in his region.
"What is the human cost of not using
DDT? Look at the number of lives we are wasting. We should use
DDT until there is something better."
The history of the "Roll-Back Malaria" program, sponsored by the
World Bank, the World Health Organization, and
United Nations agencies, is proof
that right now, there is nothing better than DDT for controlling
malaria mosquitoes. (For the moment, we will leave aside the
question of drug treatment for people with malaria, and the need for
public health infrastructure.)
These organizations and other donor
groups came up with the idea of stopping malaria by promoting the
distribution of bed nets impregnated with insecticides. No insect
control measures, no swamp draining, no infrastructure improvement,
no personnel training or increase in public health facilities, just
The goal of Roll-Back Malaria in 1998
was to halve the deaths from malaria by the year 2010. As the
increase in malaria throughout Africa testifies, this program has
been an abysmal failure.
Bed nets are not bad, in themselves. They are a useful auxiliary in
a malaria-control program. But they are costly and the pesticides
have to be applied frequently. The estimate is that only one child
in seven in Africa sleeps under a net, and only 2% of children use a
net impregnated with insecticide.
A study conducted in Kenya's highlands, reported in the journal
Tropical Medicine and International Health in April 2002, compared
bed net use to indoor residual house-spraying with DDT, and
concluded that the spraying program was more effective and cheaper
than bed nets.
Are there drawbacks to house spraying?
Roger Bate and Richard Tren
of Africa Fighting Malaria note that DDT leaves a powdery residue on
the walls, and that it is not effective on plastered and painted
walls, just on clay, cement, wood, or thatch walls. Also in some
places, bedbugs have developed a resistance to it. As Bate and Tren
point out, alternative pesticides can be used either along with DDT,
to combat the bedbugs, or alone where the housing is more
Western-style than traditional African, with painted walls.
Another observer reports that in malarious areas, where some
families refused to have their walls sprayed, they changed their
minds on the issue when it became clear that people who lived in
sprayed houses didn't come down with malaria.
International Enforcement Against DDT
In 1995, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) began an
effort to make the ban on DDT worldwide. UNEP proposed to institute
"legally binding" international controls banning what are called
"persistent organic pollutants" or POPS, including DDT.
The environmental pressure groups
agitated for a complete ban on DDT use, but the final treaty
permitted emergency public health exceptions, with the idea that its
use will be phased out in the future. In May 2004, the POPS treaty
went into effect, known officially as the Stockholm Convention on
Persistent Organic Pollutants.
However, 29 nations (almost all in
tropical regions) requested and secured an exemption for DDT use for
disease control, and three nations received an exemption to produce
DDT for public health use (China, India, and Russia).
The pressure of environmentalist groups, the World Bank, and United
Nations agencies, to remove these exemptions and totally ban DDT,
makes the current efforts of African nations to bring back DDT a big
target for attack.
The usual chorus of World
Wildlife/Greenpeace polemics against man-made "poisons," has been
augmented with a new, more desperate round of scare stories, the
latest focusing on semen quality.
Ironically, the same Malthusians who
want to stop DDT and reduce population growth, are now complaining
(without proof) that DDT reduces and damages semen!
The non-governmental agencies, the World Health Organization, the
governmental agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International
Development (AID), and the various United Nations agencies, such
as UNEP, have been shamed by the killer malaria situation into
admitting, for public consumption, that DDT is effective and should
be permitted—but in practice none of these groups funds any African
program that uses DDT.
As one U.S. malaria expert told me,
"Don't believe what they say about
DDT, look at their actions."
In fact, these groups exert tremendous
pressure on African political and health figures who support DDT.
Much of this pressure takes the form of spreading old and new lies
about DDT to scare people.
As the DDT scare stories escalate, there has also been increased
recognition in the West that the mountains of lies about DDT, are,
to put it mildly, one-sided—from Rachel Carson's lying book
Silent Spring in 1962 
to the environmentalist diatribes on the Internet, to the standard
U.S. school curriculum about pesticides.
Even The New York Times in its Sunday
Magazine on April 11, 2004, featured the benefits of DDT in an article by
editorial board member Tina Rosenberg, titled "What
the World Needs Now Is DDT." (To my knowledge, this is
the first time in 35 years that The New York Times has said anything
favorable about DDT.)
Rosenberg argues that because we
successfully used DDT to eliminate malaria and other mosquito-borne
diseases in the West,
"we forget why we once needed it."
There are also some groups, notably
Africa Fighting Malaria, that have championed DDT as a major weapon
in combating malaria. But their material is largely confined to
publication in the conservative press, which limits its circulation.
Gordon Edwards, featured in Esquire magazine
for September 1971, eating a tablespoon of DDT, a feat he
repeated almost every week in his public campaign to show the
safety of DDT. Now in his 80s and an avid mountain climber,
Edwards is still campaigning for DDT.
To win the fight against the killer
malaria, the African nations need broad-based support from the
United States and other Western nations, both financial and
We can begin by calling the anti-DDT
lobby by its proper name: Genocidalists.
And we can stop tolerating the ignorance
and anti-science of the so-called public, and their elected
officials, which allows these genocidalists to remain in control of
For Further Reading
The Fall 2002 issue of 21st
Century Science & Technology featured DDT on the cover, with
articles by Dr. J. Gordon Edwards, “Mosquitoes, DDT, and
Human Health,” and Dr. Donald Roberts, “To control Malaria,
We Need DDT.” Other archive articles on DDT are available on
the 21st Century website,
under Sample Articles.
Richard Tren of Africa
Fighting Malaria and Roger Bate have authored
many relevant articles on DDT and Malaria, including “South
Africa’s War Against Malaria: Lessons for the Developing
World,” published March 25, 2004 by the Cato Institute, and
available on the Internet.
J. Gordon Edwards and Steven
Milloy have compiled a fact sheet on DDT available on the
 See, for example, D. Roberts et
al., Emerging Infectious Diseases, July-September 1997, p. 300.
 DDT is essential for fighting malaria, but it is not a magic
bullet that will cure the problem. Eliminating mosquito-borne
diseases here and around the world requires in-depth public
health infrastructure and trained personnel—as were beginning to
be in place during the 1950s and 1960s, when DDT began to rid
the world of malaria. To solve the worsening problem as a
whole—including AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases making a
comeback—we must reverse the entire course of the past 30 years'
policymaking, and return to a society based on production,
scientific progress, and rationality.
 This policy of eliminating insecticides, spraying, and
traditional public health measures to curb malaria is the same
approach now adopted in the United States toward the West Nile
Virus. Despite 8,000 cases and more than 200 deaths last year in
the United States, the Centers for Disease Control advises that
individuals avoid mosquito bites by staying indoors during peak
mosquito hours, wearing long sleeves, and using insect
repellant. These are also the guidelines for U.S. troops in
Iraq, where DDT use could prevent the transmission of
Leishmaniasis from sand flies, a terrible disease that has
already afflicted 170 soldiers.
 For the lies of Rachel Carson, see "The Ugly Truth about
Rachel Carson" by Dr. J. Gordon Edwards in 21st Century Science
& Technology, Summer 1992, p. 41-52.