DDT is the Wrong Shortcut

DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) is one of the earliest of the modern synthetic insecticides developed in the 1940s . It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations and for insect control in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes, and gardens. DDT’s quick success as a pesticide and broad use in many countries round the world led to the development of resistance by many insect pest species.

 In the late 1950s and 60s the use of DDT became very unpopular owing to its declining effectiveness and benefits as well as mounting evidence of its environmental and toxicological effects. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962 stimulated widespread public concern over the dangers of improper pesticide use and the need for better pesticide controls.

However, today, owing to prevailing emerging health problems such as the malaria problem in the Sub-Saharan Africa, many African countries have had a rethink. All the issues we saw five decades ago have gone away and many are warming up to heavier use of DDT in killing mosquitoes.

This comes at a time when DDT has already been used and found to have failed about a century ago. History is replete with cases of mosquito resistance to DDT many of which have been documented the world over. It should be noted that DDT is not only very persistent in the environment but also has far reaching effects on human health and well-being that are also well-known and backed by scientific evidence.

What is also well-documented are also a variety of existing non-chemical malaria control methods. We are yet to see any serious efforts by the governments and the other DDT crusaders try this road and fail. Instead of opting for the more sustainable and environmentally friendly options available, a quick fix that may not be a real fix in the long term is being financed and supported by everyone but for Africa.


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