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May 31, 2007


John Quiggin

I'm afraid you have been sucked in by the tobacco lobby (try Googling Phillip Morris +DDT)


I have no objection to seegars and cheroots as insect repellents-- nicotine is a fine insecticide, but few residents of the Niger delta, say can afford havanas , and one tends to doze off and drop them at risk of getting burned or bit.

Ed Darrell

The fight against malaria has been crippled by several things, listed here in roughly the order of most important first to least important:

1. Governments have been inadequate to the task of fighting malaria (think of Uganda under Idi Amin; think of Rwanda, Congo, Kenya). In many nations, there has never been a broadscale attack on the disease backed with a competent organization and anything resembling adequate funding.

2. Health care to treat victims, both to save them and stop the spread of the parasite, is similarly inadequate in many nations.

3. Poverty prevents many people from basic things that would help stop the disease -- in-house plumbing, screens in windows, etc.

4. Malaria parasites have developed resistance to the drugs formerly used to treat them.

5. HIV/AIDS has confounded treatment of many diseases, and made many people more vulnerable to malaria and more difficult to treat.

6. Mosquitoes developed resistance to pesticides, including DDT resistance (which began to appear in the 1940s and was widespread in some locales by 1965). Successful anti-malaria campaigns need two or three different pesticides and pest repellants in order to be successful and sustain the success for more than a few years at a time.

7. Many people are reluctant to allow DDT to be sprayed in their houses after previous bad experiences (Google "the day it rained cats in Borneo").

Rachel Carson's book may have had some influence on the last point, to people who read the book. Sales were restricted largely to the U.S. 99% of all potential malaria victims lack access to the book.

I think your sources exaggerate the benefits of DDT, grossly exaggerate its safety, and unfairly impugn the reputation of a dead woman. Hundreds of follow-up studies have confirmed almost every point of science in Rachel Carson's book. Had we followed her prescription, malaria could have been significantly reduced compared to what we have today; but had we continued on the course she warned against, malaria would have come back even more strongly once all the predators of mosquitoes were dead.

C'mon over to Millard Fillmore's Bathtub and get some good data on DDT and malaria.

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