Africa's Other Deadly Plague: Malaria Kills One Child under Age 5 Every 30 Seconds. DDT Stops the Disease, but Environmentalists Still Oppose It, despite That Controlled Use Seems Harmless to Humans. (Health)

By Carter, Tom | Insight on the News, August 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

Africa's Other Deadly Plague: Malaria Kills One Child under Age 5 Every 30 Seconds. DDT Stops the Disease, but Environmentalists Still Oppose It, despite That Controlled Use Seems Harmless to Humans. (Health)


Carter, Tom, Insight on the News


Each year, malaria causes millions of deaths worldwide--many (if not most) of which could have been prevented with limited use of DDT, the chemical insecticide that brings a grimace of horror at its mention. "What you need is a whole set of arrows in the quiver," says Amir Attaran, an immunologist and lecturer at Harvard University's Center for International Development. "Along with mosquito nets, other insecticides and drugs, DDT needs to be one of them."

Attaran, also a lawyer who once worked for Canada's Sierra Club, is leading a worldwide crusade to bring back DDT. People who oppose the insecticide are simply ignorant of the science, he argues. It is safe when used properly, and is cheap and effective.

"Agriculture doesn't need to be using DDT," says Attaran. "Saving children's lives is different. Malaria extracts a really bitter price in human and economic development."

Every year 300 million to 500 million people contract malaria, and more than 2 million--mostly pregnant women and children--die from the mosquito-borne disease. Although malaria is found on every continent and in more than 90 countries, 90 percent of those affected live in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is as deadly, if not more so, than HIV/AIDS (see sidebar) or tuberculosis. Every day, more than 3,000 African children younger than age 5 succumb to the shaking chills, the raging fevers, the drenching sweats and excruciating aches that accompany the infection.

In its later stages, children with malaria go into uncontrollable seizures. A virulent case can kill a child in 24 hours. Despite billions of dollars and decades of research, there is still no vaccine that is good for more than a few weeks.

But scientists almost are unanimous that many of these deaths could be prevented with the use of DDT It is three to five times cheaper than the pyrethroid insecticides prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). And it is effective--a few ounces sprayed on the inner walls of a dwelling once a year confers protection. Despite its pariah status, numerous scientific studies indicate that for humans, it is less poisonous than aspirin.

DDT's status as the ultimate icon of environmental evil began with the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. At the time, farmers were dumping an estimated 80,000 tons of DDT on fields each year. The chemical washed into rivers and streams and entered the food chain, contaminating the fish that bald eagles and other birds of prey ate and causing their eggs to become too fragile to hold embryos. As a result, the bald eagle was in danger of becoming extinct in the lower 48 states.

By then, DDT had settled in the fat deposits of almost every creature in the animal kingdom, including humans. One study in 1966 found that the average American teen-ager consumed 12.4 milligrams (0.0004 ounces) of DDT a year. Because it was so deadly to many birds, people assumed it had to be bad for humans as well, even if scientific evidence of human toxicity never entered the equation. In 1972, DDT was banned in the United States.

Today, advocates of limited DDT use in the battle against malaria warn against its use in farming. But yearly house-spraying in malaria-prone areas of Asia, Latin America and Africa would cut the toll dramatically, they claim. Indeed, many point to the experiences of South Africa and neighboring Mozambique in dealing with malaria.

For 50 years, South Africa used DDT to control malaria. But in 1996 its new democratic government, concerned about research finding DDT in mothers' breast milk, succumbed to international pressure and stopped using the chemical. Almost overnight, the country's malaria rate jumped from just a few thousand cases a year to more than 50,000, overtaking the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS infection.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Africa's Other Deadly Plague: Malaria Kills One Child under Age 5 Every 30 Seconds. DDT Stops the Disease, but Environmentalists Still Oppose It, despite That Controlled Use Seems Harmless to Humans. (Health)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.