While Rachel Carson's Silent Spring catalogued the environmental and health impacts of the agricultural spraying of DDT in the US, early studies of the impacts of indoor spraying of DDT in developing nations as a form of malaria prevention are just emerging. Unsurprisingly, these studies show that far higher concentrations of DDT are found in the blood of those exposed to the chemical through indoor spraying than have ever been found in a population exposed to the chemical through agricultural spraying.According to an article in Seed Magazine, a recent study published by Environmental Health Perspectives examines the growing body of research linking indoor spraying of DDT to breast cancer, diabetes, infertility, and impaired brain development in children. The study also warns of the negative impact of the chemical on children who are exposed in utero and through breast milk.
Indoor DDT Spraying To Combat Malaria
Although the days of blanketing agricultural crops and nearby wildlife with DDT ended in the US upon the chemical's ban in 1972, indoor spraying is considered an acceptable means of combating the malaria epidemic that continues to assail many third world nations. It seems intuitive, however, that indoor spraying likely presents similar health concerns as outdoor spraying. While this is no doubt true, the issue is complicated by the severity of the immediate threat of malaria to third world populations, including many young children in southern Africa.
It's hard to stomach that a population already suffering from an epidemic that affects 350 to 500 million people worldwide each year (killing over one million people each year) has to contend with the immediate repercussions of a treatment that has been linked to cancer, infertility, and impaired brain development. There is also the possibility that mosquitoes could develop a resistance to DDT, which would render it ineffective and deadly.
The Malaria Epidemic
Some commentators blame the resurgence of malaria on an aversion to the use of DDT, but, as John wrote, the epidemic seems to have been fanned by failures of national governance and by a wanting of financial resources and training. The increase in malaria has coincided with a recent boom in population growth in developing nations where children are exposed in flooded slums or in poorly drained agricultural areas.
The problem of malaria in Africa presents no easy solutions, but the implications of treating a threatened population with a chemical that is associated with significant and well-documented health risks are far reaching. There must be a better way.
More on Malaria:
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Climate Change Causing Malaria in Papua New Guinea Every Year, Says Expert
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