DDT Saves Lives

The New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof hits the nail on the head regarding the need to reconsider the ban on DDT in developing countries:

“If the U.S. wants to help people in tsunami-hit countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia – not to mention other poor countries in Africa – there’s one step that would cost us nothing and would save hundreds of thousands of lives.

It would be to allow DDT in malaria-ravaged countries.

I’m thrilled that we’re pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the relief effort, but the tsunami was only a blip in third-world mortality. Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did, and in the long war between humans and mosquitoes it looks as if mosquitoes are winning.

One reason is that the U.S. and other rich countries are siding with the mosquitoes against the world’s poor – by opposing the use of DDT.”

While there is ample evidence refuting Kristof’s claim that DDT nearly wiped out the bald eagle, his larger point is right on target: the risks to humans from exposure to DDT are far less than the risks posed by exposure to malaria. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people contract malaria every year, resulting in over a million deaths. It’s particularly nice to see such a prominent call for reconsidering the DDT ban in a media outlet that often falls in step with the environmental activist party line. Rachel Carson, whose anti-DDT book Silent Spring helped launch the modern environmental movement in the 1960’s, would have been aghast. For more facts on DDT, check out’s 100 Things You Should Know About DDT. Also, check out this NCPA paper, which hammers home the point that the application of the “precautionary principle” to justify the ban on DDT has actually had the counterproductive effect of increasing risks to human health.