Bednets enough enough to beat malaria in most places

October 8, 2015

Reuters caption:  A displaced child plays on a mattress under a mosquito net laid in the open at Tomping camp near South Sudan's capital Juba January 7, 2014. Reuters/James Akena/Files

Reuters caption: A displaced child plays on a mattress under a mosquito net laid in the open at Tomping camp near South Sudan’s capital Juba January 7, 2014. Reuters/James Akena/Files

Another blow to the DDT partisans.

In a report published last January, which I just reread, researchers found that bednets alone offer enough prevention of malaria that Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) using DDT or one of the other 11 WHO-approved insecticides, offers no additional protection, but at additional cost.

Lancet study said bednets alone are effective against malaria transmission, and spraying insecticides gives no additional benefit.

Reuters reported:

Spraying insecticides indoors offers children no additional protection from malaria when bed nets are used, a study said on Tuesday, as malaria cases and deaths worldwide continue to fall.

A study by medical journal The Lancet said donors should invest their limited resources on additional bed nets as the most cost-effective solution to tackling malaria, costing an average of $2.20 per person compared to $6.70 for insecticide.

“High bed net use is sufficient to protect people against malaria in areas that have low or moderate levels of malaria,” lead author Steve Lindsay said in a statement.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, kills more than 600,000 people a year, and most victims are children under five living in the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The study coincided with the launch of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual World Malaria Report, which said the number of global malaria deaths fell by 47 percent between 2000 and 2013, with malaria cases also steadily declining, due to improved access to testing, treatment and bed nets. (


Reuters’s report is longer, at Reuters’s site.

But another report by June indicates that gains against malaria can still be tough to maintain, especially with global warming creeping up on us.

The fight’s not over.

Throwing reason out the window: Scott Bailey’s book attacking science and environment protection

September 18, 2015

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself. A special panel of the nation’s top entomologists and biologists reported to President Kennedy in 1963 that Carson’s book was accurate, but that the problems she cited were more urgent than she said. Critics never give up. Image from Pop History Dig.

Very brief, glowing but not deep book review at PanAm Post on a new book by Scott Bailey, taking aim at environmental protection: “The apocalypse isn’t coming any time soon.”

Bailey’s book comes with a title determined to push lack of action: The End of Doom.

Such reviews bring small-but-building catastrophes much closer, alas.

Reviewer Nick Zaiac said:

The book is a great primer for someone new to environmental policy who would like to begin with a more sober look at the topic, rather than an over-dramatized introductory book like Rachel Carson’s famed Silent Spring — a book that Bailey takes pains to rebut.

What? Rachel Carson was right, in Silent Spring. Why would anyone “take pains” to refute good science?

I smell policy hoaxing here, another guy trying to sell us junk science.

I’ve not read the book. Frankly, I don’t really know much about Scott Bailey, either, other than he writes at Reason, a site for libertarians and skeptics that has, in the past decade, taken a puzzling turn against science and reason.

Anyone read the book?

At the review, I offered my alarm at the claim to have refuted Carson’s careful, and still valid science references.

Rachel Carson offered 53 pages of careful citations to science studies backing every point she made, in Silent Spring. since 1962, not a single peer-reviewed study has challenged any of that research she documented.  Quite to the contrary, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published on the topic of DDT’s effects on birds alone — every one confirming what Carson cited, or providing evidence of new and greater dangers.

Carson was careful to note that hard studies of DDT’s carcinogenicity had not been done. But now they have been done, and it turns out DDT is carcinogenic to humans, though perhaps only mildly so to those exposed directly. Since DDT is an estrogen mimic, an endocrine disruptor, its greatest cancer effects may be in the children of those exposed.

In any case, DDT was not banned as a carcinogen to humans.  It was banned as a poison that bioaccumulates and so is uncontrollable in the wild, a poison that can take down entire ecosystems of non-target species.

So, what is Bailey “refuting?” I’ll wager his research is victimized by hoax claims that Rachel Carson got it wrong, when study after study has shown she went easy on DDT.

We got bailed out of “environmental apocalypse” in the 1970s by wise policies that paid attention to what people like Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich said.  We passed laws stopping pollution of air and water from many sources, by many different pollutants — but not all. And we got lucky. Norman Borlaug’s green revolution staved off catastrophic starvation crises.

Norman Borlaug is dead, and there is nothing like a new green revolution in the works. Bailey joins forces with anti-science crusaders to block further action to clean up pollution, especially air pollution.

Were we wise, we’d not be gambling with our future and our grandchildren’s future, with claims to have “refuted” past wisdom on environmental issues.


India, world’s last DDT maker, heaviest user, plans to stop

August 29, 2015

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

Sometimes big news sneaks up on us, without press releases. We often miss it.

Quiet little Tweet from journalist I’d never heard of, who passed along news from an obscure journal:

As a journalist, this guy has a piece of a world-wide scoop.

India is probably the last nation on Earth producing DDT.  In the last decade other two nations making the stuff got out of the business — North Korea and China. For several years now India has been the largest manufacturer of DDT, and far and away the greatest user, spraying more DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, sand flies, and agricultural and household pests than the rest of the world combined.

As if an omen, India’s malaria rates did not drop, but instead rose, even as malaria rates dropped or plunged in almost every other nation on Earth.

Under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) signed by more than 150 nations (not including the U.S.), DDT was one of a dozen chemicals targeted to be phased out due to its extremely dangerous qualities, including long-term persistence in the environment and bioaccummulation, by which doses of the stuff increase up the food chain, delivering crippling and fatal doses to top predators.

A perfect substitute for DDT in fighting some disease-carrying insects (“vectors”) has never been developed. Health officials asked, and the Stockholm negotiators agreed to leave DDT legally available to fight disease. Annex B asked nations to tell the World Health Organization if it wanted to use DDT. Since 2001, as DDT effectiveness was increasingly compromised by resistance evolved in insects, fewer and fewer nations found it useful.

The site Mr. Nazakat linked to is up and down, and my security program occasionally says the site is untrustworthy. It’s obscure at best. Shouldn’t news of this type be in some of India’s biggest newspapers?

I found an article in the Deccan Herald, confirming the report, but again with some

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

New Delhi, August 26, 2015, DHNS:

It would be better to switch to another insecticide, says expert

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India has launched a $53 million project to phase out DDT by 2020 and replace them with Neem-based bio-pesticides that are equally effective.

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment.

India on Tuesday entered into a $53 million (Rs 350 crore) partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility to replace DDT with safer, more effective and green alternatives.

“As per the plan, the National Botanical Research Organisation, Lucknow, tied up with a company to produce Neem-based alternatives for the malaria programme. The production will start in six months,” Shakti Dhua, the regional coordinator of UNIDO told Deccan Herald.

Till last year, the annual DDT requirement was about 6,000 tonnes that has now been cut down to 4,000 tonnes as the government decided to stop using it in the Kala-Azar control programme.

A recent study by an Indo-British team of medical researchers found that using DDT without any surveillance is counter-productive as a vector control strategy as sand flies not only thrive but are also becoming resistant to DDT.

“It would be better to switch to another insecticide, which is more likely to give better results than DDT,” said Janet Hemingway, a scientist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. While the Health Ministry wanted to bring in synthetic pyrethroids, the United Nation agencies supports the bio-pesticides because of their efficacy and long-lasting effects.

“The new initiative would help check the spread of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. These include botanical pesticides, including Neem-based compounds, and long-lasting insecticidal safety nets that will prevent mosquito bites while sleeping,” Dhua said.

Ending the production and use of DDT is a priority for India as it is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) of 2002 that seeks to eliminate the use of these chemicals in industrial processes, drugs and pesticides. DDT is one of the POPs.

The clock is counting down the last years of DDT.  Good.

If events unroll as planned, DDT making will end by 2020, 81 years after it was discovered to kill bugs, 70 years after it was released for civilian years, 70 years after problems with its use was first reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 58 years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 50 years after European nations banned some uses, 48 years after the famous U.S. ban on agricultural use, 19 years after the POPs Treaty.

When will the news leak out?


Audubon Christmas Bird Count issue: Eagles did not prosper during the ‘time of DDT’

August 26, 2015

Still photo captured from the film,

Still photo captured from the film, “Christmas Bird Count,” by Chan Robbins; photo shows a group counting birds, probably in the 1940s or 1950s. Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count got its start in 1900.

In the notoriously wrong and misleading “100 things you should know about DDT” posted by pro-DDT, anti-wildlife Steven Milloy of “Competitive Enterprise Institute” and Fox News fame, based on the foggy rant of Dr. Gordon Edwards, we get these two misleading claims:

69. After 15 years of heavy and widespread usage of DDT, Audubon Society ornithologists counted 25 percent more eagles per observer in 1960 than during the pre-DDT 1941 bird census. [Marvin, PH. 1964 Birds on the rise. Bull Entomol Soc Amer 10(3):184-186; Wurster, CF. 1969 Congressional Record S4599, May 5, 1969; Anon. 1942. The 42nd Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Magazine 44:1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942; Cruickshank, AD (Editor). 1961. The 61st Annual Christmas Bird Census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2):84-300; White-Stevens, R.. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas Bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]

99. The Audubon Society’s annual bird census in 1960 reported that at least 26 kinds of birds became more numerous during 1941 – 1960. [See Anon. 1942. The 42nd annual Christmas bird census.” Audubon Magazine 44;1-75 (Jan/Feb 1942), and Cruicjshank, AD (editor) 1961. The 61st annual Christmas bird census. Audubon Field Notes 15(2); 84-300]

100. Statistical analysis of the Audubon data bore out the perceived increases. [White-Stevens, R. 1972. Statistical analyses of Audubon Christmas bird censuses. Letter to New York Times, August 15, 1972]

Those claims are false with regard to bald eagles.

The careful citations offered by Milloy and Edwards simply do not exist; if the source exists, the source does not say what is claimed by these guys.  (Don’t take my word for it; go see for yourself.)

Audubon never suggested, in any forum, that their famous Christmas Bird Count had shown increases in eagles. Most other species showed no increases, either. I spent a couple of days at the library of Southern Methodist University reviewing every issue of Audubon Magazine from 1941 through 1974, and found not a single article suggesting anything other than declining eagle populations in the lower 48 states (Alaska eagles were not untouched by DDT, but were not so seriously affected; and as you will see below, the first counts of Alaska’s eagles did not occur until after 1950, so the addition of numbers from Alaska counts do not indicate an increase in U.S. population of eagles.)

I also reviewed each bird count, usually published in a separate booklet with the March issue of Audubon in that time. While raw numbers increased, that was clearly due to increases in people observing. At no point did any ornithologist or Audubon member suggest eagles were in recovery, from 1941 through 1972.

That’s a long explanation, unsuitable for quick discussion on blogs, and wholly too much for a 140-character Tweet. My experience with Milloy and his followers is that they will say my analysis somehow errs, though they cannot offer any real analysis from any other source that isn’t just a misreading of the raw bird count.

I wrote the Audubon Society, and asked them to respond to the claim. At first the press office thought the claims so bizarre that they didn’t think a reply necessary.  I sent them a half-dozen links to other documents that cited Milloy and Edwards.  Delta Willis at Audubon took the claims to officials of the bird count.

Geoff LeBaron, Director of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count sent the following reply (posted without correction).

See also the footnote from Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham appended to the end of the e-mail.

LeBaron, Geoff
Sent: Friday, May 10, 2013 10:21 AM
To: Willis, Delta; Langham, Gary; Dale, Kathy
Subject: RE: DDT and effects on birds, and Audubon Christmas bird count

Hello Delta,

From the 1930s through 1970s there was a tremendous growth in the number of Christmas Bird Counts, from 203 total counts in the 30th CBC to 1320 counts in 80th CBC.  The number of observers on those counts rose from 679 in 30th to 32,322 in the 80th Count.  That is a tremendous increase in effort as well as geographic coverage, and more people in more areas are going to count more Bald Eagles, even if the populations are [were] declining.

A second major factor is that during that period many CBCs were started with the specific goal of censusing wintering Bald Eagles.  Thus we were targeting the areas where eagles were wintering, and thus tallying a much greater percentage of the total population.

Thirdly, there were only two individual CBCs conducted in Alaska prior to the late 1950s.  Bald Eagle populations never suffered dramatically in Alaska [from DDT?], and their numbers were always much higher there.  Since the late 1950s there has been a tremendous growth in the number of counts in Alaska—again, with some of these counts targeting areas where wintering eagles congregate even in the thousands.  These counts added in Alaska can contribute greatly to the total number of Bald Eagles in each season’s CBC.

Thus even while Bald Eagle populations were plummeting in the lower 48 states (outside of Florida) CBC [Citizen Science] efforts were greatly increasing, and in fact targeting monitoring Bald Eagles.  That is why both the raw number of eagles and the numbers when weighted for observer effort went up when you pull CBC data for Bald Eagle during the decades of heavy DDT use.

It’s still educational to look at raptor numbers in CBC data in the years following the banning of the use of DDT in the US.  Many species of raptors show a rapid rebound in numbers after the mid-1970s…and Bald Eagles also dramatically increased.

Per Dr. Gary Langham, Audubon Chief Scientist:   Audubon scientists are careful to include levels of participation and geographic coverage in all analyses. Fortunately, we have tracked both of these aspects since the CBC was started and so it is straightforward to adjust for their impacts.

Bird counts do not show that eagles were out of trouble during DDT years, roughly 1946 through 1972; especially they do not show that bald eagle populations increased.


Explanation of the Christmas Bird Count in four minutes, by Chan Robbins.

Chandler Robbins, founder of the Audubon Christimas Bird Count, screen capture from Audubon film

Chandler Robbins, founder of the Audubon Christimas Bird Count, screen capture from Audubon film “Christmas Bird Count.”

Nota bene: Yes, this has sat in my “to be published” box for too long. It was scheduled for publication, but it appears I had not hit the “publish at scheduled time” button. My apologies to readers, and especially to Audubon’s scientists and press people.

Malaria No More notes milestone: Malaria at all time low

August 20, 2015

Remarkable progress against malaria marks the 21st century — but there was even more progress between 1960 and 2000. This progress usually is not noted in screeds against the World Health Organization (WHO), or Rachel Carson, or “crazy environmentalists.”

Through the 1950s, WHO estimated malaria deaths worldwide at about 5 million people each year. In about a decade of WHO’s malaria eradication campaign in temperate zones, the toll is estimated to have dropped to about 4 million dead each year.  WHO suspended the eradication campaign in 1963 when it was discovered that mosquitoes in central Africa were already resistant and immune to DDT, which was the chief pesticide used for Indoor Residual Spraying to temporarily knock down local mosquito populations. WHO tried to find substitutes for DDT, but by 1969 formally ended the program and stopped asking for money for eradication.

The fight against malaria continued, however. In 1972 the U.S. flooded malaria-prone nations with DDT which had been intended for use on U.S. crops, after the U.S. prohibited DDT on U.S. crops. For a dozen years all U.S. DDT production got channeled into Africa and Asia to fight disease.  U.S. makers had gotten out of DDT production by 1985 as production shifted to other nations.

Despite DDT’s failure, progress was made in medical care and especially in education on how to prevent mosquito bites.  The death toll dropped toward 1 million annually until about 1990. In the late 1980s, the medicines used to cure humans from malaria parasites failed, as the parasites developed their own resistance to the drugs. Through the 1990s, malaria deaths remained constant, or even rose.

A flood of concern in the late 1990s produced a coalition of malaria fighters with funding through the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust. In 1999, most of these groups agreed to fight harder, using “integrated vector management,” a variety of methods calculated to prevent mosquitoes from developing resistance to new pesticides, and prevent the malaria parasites from developing resistance to pharmaceuticals.

Plus, in nations where houses often were leaky to mosquitoes, these agencies provided bednets to prevent bites of malaria-carriers at peak biting periods, when people slept. By 2008, deaths dropped below a million each year for the first time, and progress has continued.

Beating malaria is a top goal of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); Malaria No More reported on a recently-completed report on those goals, which noted the progress against malaria.

Here is the press release from Malaria No More.

Malaria Deaths Reach All Time Low, U.N. Secretary General’s Final MDG Report Shows

NEW YORK, NY – July 6, 2015 – Malaria deaths have reached an all-time low and 6.2 million lives have been saved from the disease between 2000-2015, according to a new United Nations report announced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office today. The final report on progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are set to expire this year, highlights an historic 69 percent decline in the rate of child deaths from malaria in Africa.

The report provides an update to all eight MDG Goals. The unprecedented global leadership over the past ten years to combat malaria has not only surpassed the disease-specific MDG target (Goal 6, Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases), but those efforts also contributed to critical progress toward achieving Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health).

“Malaria is one of the standout successes of the MDGs thanks to continuous innovation, bold endemic country leadership and steadfast donor commitment,” said Ray Chambers, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and Financing the Health MDGs. “We need to build on this success to ensure no child, woman or man dies from a mosquito bite and that we ultimately eradicate this disease.”

Thanks to the leadership of the United States, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international donors, malaria financing has grown dramatically from 2000-2015 to more than $3 billion annually, and political leadership has fueled the delivery of more than 1 billion mosquito nets to Africa along with hundreds of millions of effective tests and treatments.

Although these results have successfully surpassed the MDG target, the fight against malaria is not finished. Malaria remains a major global health security challenge with an estimated 3.3 billion people at risk globally. Thanks to recent success in achieving real and measureable progress, coupled with steadfast political leadership and a promising pipeline of transformative new technologies, malaria-affected regions have set ambitious goals for elimination including transformative 2020 targets in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

“Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history,” said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More. “For the first time in history we have the opportunity to capitalize on our success and end malaria within a generation; we can’t afford to miss that opportunity.”

Click here to download the full report.

Chart from

Estimated change in malaria incidence rate (cases per 1,000 population at risk) and malaria mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 persons at risk), 2000-2015. chart, based on MDG report.

Estimated change in malaria incidence rate (cases per 1,000 population at risk) and malaria mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 persons at risk), 2000-2015. chart, based on MDG report.

Malaria Twitterstorm, summer of 2015

August 18, 2015

Several good developments in the War on Malaria, worldwide — along with some alarming signs.  Maybe there will be time to blog seriously about each of these things later. Let’s get them known, and keep discussion going for the best way to beat malaria in a post-DDT world.

QPharm Tweeted about DSM 265, an experimental, one-dose treatment developed by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV); the video is useful for the background those new to the issue can get on the problems of treating malaria, which make great hurdles for campaigns to eradicate malaria.

Here’s the video the Tweet leads to.

MMV said:

DSM265 is a selective inhibitor of the plasmodial enzyme called DHODH. DHODH is a key enzyme in the replication of the parasite. If we can inhibit that enzyme with DSM265, we can stop the life of the parasite.

Voice of America reported on Rollback Malaria’s call for $100 billion to be spent in the next 15 years, to stamp out the disease.

Malaria deaths are, in 2015, at an “all time low.” Deaths hover around 500,000 per year, most in Africa, and most among children under the age of 5. A staggering total, until compared to the post-World War II estimates of more than 5 million deaths per year, or the more than 3 million deaths per year in 1963, the year the World Health Organization (WHO) had to stop its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria when pesticide DDT, upon which the campaign was based, produced resistance in mosquitoes in areas where the campaign had not yet reached.

Beating malaria is one of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations; this year’s report on MDG acknowledged the great progress already made.

Another non-governmental malaria-fighting organization discussed the news; see the press release from Malaria No More.

Medical News Today Tweeted out a tout for its own coverage of malaria — notable for a good, basic explanation of malaria and how to fight it.  I wish critics of Rachel Carson and WHO were familiar with half of these basic facts.

Medical News Now's Fast Facts on Malaria

Medical News Now’s Fast Facts on Malaria. Notable, that annual deaths now are way below the million mark. Good news!

One malaria vaccine has won approval for final testing. Good news, though anyone who follows vaccines knows it will take a while to test, and anyone who knows malaria fighting knows there are four different parasites, and delivery of any medical care is tough in far too many parts of the world where any form of malaria is endemic. Even small good news is good news.

Are we better informed about malaria now? Do we understand spreading a lot more DDT is not the answer?


Wellcome Trust interactive on malaria parasites’ lifecycle

August 12, 2015

Screen capture of the Wellcome Trust HTML presentation on the life cycle of malaria parasites. Malaria fighters know all this almost instinctively; too often policy makers fail to understand it, and so they recommend policies that do not make medical or economic sense in fighting the disease. Click image to go to Wellcome Trust site for full presentation.

Screen capture of the Wellcome Trust HTML presentation on the life cycle of malaria parasites. Malaria fighters know all this almost instinctively; too often policy makers fail to understand it, and so they recommend policies that do not make medical or economic sense in fighting the disease. Click image to go to Wellcome Trust site for full presentation.

Britain’s Wellcome Trust takes as one of its key missions the fight against malaria.  The Trust is a charitable foundation created from profits of pharmaceutical development and sales.

Recently I found this HTML animation presentation on the life cycle of the malaria parasite, something all malaria fighters must know to be effective.

It’s also something that DDT advocates seem unable to comprehend.  Malaria is not a virus, nor is it a venom mosquitoes manufacture, but it is a parasite that infects (and disables) both mosquitoes and humans. Mosquitoes catch the parasite from an infected human host. After the malaria parasite completes a couple of cycles in the gut of the mosquito, the parasite can be transmitted back to humans by a mosquito bite. And the cycle continues.

Since complete eradication of malaria-carrying mosquitoes is practically impossible in almost all cases, beating malaria requires an interruption in the cycle of transmission of the parasite, plus the curing of the disease in infected human hosts.

For example, the old World Health Organization (WHO) malaria eradication campaign, which operated from 1955 to 1963, DDT was used to temporarily knock down a population of mosquitoes, with hopes human hosts would be ridded of malaria parasites so that, in six months or so, when the mosquito populations roared back, there would be no malaria in local humans to infect mosquitoes. Consequently, mosquitoes can’t transmit a parasite they don’t have.

Lost on far too many people: Humans must be cured of malaria to prevent transmission. Beating malaria takes a lot more than just killing mosquitoes.

Check out the interactive:  Malaria parasite life cycle

While you’re there, snoop around to see what else Wellcome Trust is up to in the malaria fight.



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