DDT use plunged to just 10 nations in 2015; gone by 2020?

April 13, 2016

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

UN photo showing a mother and child protected from mosquito-borne disease by a bednet, the chief tool used in 2015 to prevent malaria transmission in endemic areas.

Just ten nations still used DDT in 2015, putting the planet on target to phase out all DDT use by 2020.

World Malaria Report 2015, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in early December, notes those nations reporting that they use DDT in public health fights against disease. Under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty, any nation may use DDT simply by notifying WHO.  Signatories of the treaty usually agree to stop all use of DDT once current use ends. Since 2003, most nations using it found DDT simply didn’t work well enough to continue use it to fight malaria or any other vector-borne diseases.

In the 2015 Report, Appendix 2A lists methods of vector control used in nations (“vector” being the fancy word for carrier of the disease, or mosquitoes in the case of malaria).  (See pages 234 to 237 of the .pdf.)

Nations in which DDT is used to fight malaria
World Malaria Report 2015 Appendix 2A

  1. Botswana
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Gambia
  4. Mozambique
  5. Namibia
  6. South Africa
  7. Swaziland
  8. Zambia
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. India

Ten nations total, nine in Africa, plus India.

Despite political calls to “bring back” DDT as a means of fighting mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, no reports show any nation notified WHO it would do so. Most nations afflicted by Zika have been earlier afflicted by other diseases carried by the same species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti.  This species carries dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya, and perhaps others. Consequently, most of these nations have already tried DDT against the Zika carriers, and abandoned the projects when hoped-for results did not occur.

Every mosquito on Earth in 2016 carries at least a few of the alleles that make them resistant to, or even immune to DDT. DDT use also pushes mosquito populations to develop paths that make them quickly resistant to other pesticides. WHO guidelines urge public health officials never to use just one pesticide, but instead rotate among a dozen approved for vector use, in order to prevent the bugs from developing resistance. Resistance to pesticides remains one of the chief obstacles to eliminating disease, and a growing obstacle.

India is the world’s only known maker of DDT in 2015, and the heaviest user, using more of the pesticide than all other nations combined. Due to decreasing effectiveness of DDT as mosquito resistance to to it spreads and grows stronger, malaria has proliferated in India despite increased DDT application. In 2015, India announced to WHO it would suspend manufacture and use of DDT by 2020.

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Spark ignited a fire that became an environmental alarm, Silent Spring

February 3, 2016

The letter to the editor of the late Boston Herald that sparked Rachel Carson to write Silent Spring.

Oddly, the Tweet from American Scientist doesn’t link to the letter at all. Instead it links to a timeline of events regarding the magazine’s changing treatment of DDT as a subject, since 1944. It’s a useful timeline, but it leaves us wondering about that 1958 letter to the editor.

I’d like to have an original image, but have not found one.  Instead, I found a retyped copy of the text of the letter, looking as though it came from a 1958 typewriter.

Text of letter to the editor by birdwatcher Olga Owens Huckins, published in the Boston Herald on January 30, 1958. The letter sparked naturalist and author Rachel Carson to open a file on pesticides, which she eventually turned into Silent Spring. Image from Weebly

Text of letter to the editor by birdwatcher Olga Owens Huckins, published in the Boston Herald on January 30, 1958. The letter sparked naturalist and author Rachel Carson to open a file on pesticides, which she eventually turned into Silent Spring. Image from Weebly

Do you know where we might find an image of the original letter as published — preferably on the internet?

It also occurs to me that this could be a key piece for a short lesson on the value of citizen involvement, for a class in civics and government, or in a class for Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts on one of the citizenship merit badges.

Mrs. Huckins’s letter is a fine example of the citizen acorns from which grow the oaks of political drives for better communities, and a better world.

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Report that malaria and DDT hoaxsters hope you never see

January 21, 2016

 Cover of World Health Organization's "World Malaria Report 2015," which reported dramatic progress controlling malaria.

Cover of World Health Organization’s “World Malaria Report 2015,” which reported dramatic progress controlling malaria.

World Malaria Report 2015 dropped in mid-December, with United Nations-style fanfare.

Which means, you probably heard little to nothing about it in U.S. media, and “conservatives” and anti-science hoaxsters hope you won’t ever see it, so they can claim contrary to the facts that liberals kill kids in Africa.

My cynicism about the fight against malaria dissipates some, but my cynicism about hoaxes substituting for political dialogue grows.

World Health Organization (WHO) releases an annual report near the end of every year, detailing the fight against malaria and progress or lack of it.

Good news this year: WHO estimates deaths to malaria fell below 500,000 per year in 2015. That’s at least a 50% reduction since renewed vigor in the malaria fight in 2000, and it’s a 90% reduction from peak DDT use years, 1958-1963, when WHO estimated 5 million people died each year from malaria.

About 80% of malaria deaths take children under the age of 5.

Bigger picture: Malaria is on the run. Humans are winning the fight against malaria. Much remains to be done, however. Plus, malaria fighters warn that malaria can come roaring back, if governments neglect to follow through on promises of funding, and with well-run programs to cure humans of malaria and prevent new cases.

World Malaria Report 2015 should influence policy discussions in U.S. elections. But generally, this report was ignored.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub will feature in-depth discussions of parts of the report, and simple repetition for the record of the report, as part our long-term battle against hoaxsters who claim the U.S. ban on use of DDT on U.S. farms somehow increased malaria in Africa, and killed millions, when malaria actually decreased and millions were saved from death.

Malaria loses only with hard work on the ground by medical people treating and curing humans of the disease, and by public health people working hard to prevent new infections. Most of that work is not glorious, occurs relatively anonymously and away from television cameras and photographers with access to social media.  Which is to say, the hard work of defeating malaria goes unsung around the world. We should work to change that.

What did others say about World Malaria Report?

A collection of Tweets, and other links, for your study.


How USA spends so much money to fight malaria in other nations

January 2, 2016

Fighting malaria is difficult, and complex, and expensive. No magic bullet can slow or stop malaria.

Reasonable people understand the stakes, not only for Africa, where $12 billion is lost every year to malaria illness and death, according to WHO records; but also for all nations who trade with Africa and other malaria endemic nations in the world.

What should we do about malaria?

Before we leap to solutions, let us look to see what the United States is already doing, according to USAID, the agency which has led U.S. malaria-fighting since the 1950s.

USAID explains on their website:

Fighting Malaria

A mother and child sit under the protection of malaria nets

A mother and child sit under the protection of malaria nets. Learn more about PMI’s contributions to the global fight against malaria. Maggie Hallahan Photography

Each year, malaria causes about 214 million cases and an estimated 438,000 deaths worldwide

While malaria mortality rates have dropped by 60 percent over the period 2000–2015, malaria remains a major cause of death among children. Although the disease is preventable and curable, it is estimated that a child dies every minute from malaria. In Asia and the Americas, malaria causes fewer severe illnesses and deaths, but antimalarial drug resistance is a serious and growing problem.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been committed to fighting malaria since the 1950s. Malaria prevention and control remains a major U.S. foreign assistance objective and supports the U.S. Government’s vision of ending preventable child and maternal deaths and ending extreme poverty. USAID works closely with national governments to build their capacity to prevent and treat the disease. USAID also invests in the discovery and development of new antimalarial drugs and malaria vaccines. USAID-supported malaria control activities are based on country-level assessments, and a combination of interventions are implemented to achieve the greatest public health impact – most importantly the reduction of maternal and child mortality. These interventions include:

  • Indoor residual spraying (IRS): IRS is the organized, timely spraying of an insecticide on the inside walls of houses or dwellings. It kills adult mosquitoes before they can transmit malaria parasites to another person.
  • Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs): An insecticide-treated mosquito net hung over sleeping areas protects those sleeping under it by repelling mosquitoes and killing those that land on it.
  • Intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women (IPTp): Approximately 125 million pregnant women annually are at risk of contracting malaria. IPTp involves the administration of at least two doses of an antimalarial drug to a pregnant woman, which protects her against maternal anemia and reduces the likelihood of low birth weight and perinatal death.
  • Diagnosis and treatment with lifesaving drugs: Effective case management entails diagnostic testing for malaria to ensure that all patients with malaria are properly identified and receive a quality-assured artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) works in 19 focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Greater Mekong Subregion in Asia. PMI is an interagency initiative led by USAID and implemented together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, PMI launched its next 6-year strategy for 2015–2020, which takes into account the progress over the past decade and the new challenges that have arisen. It is also in line with the goals articulated in the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership’s second generation global malaria action plan, Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria (AIM) 2016–2030: for a Malaria-Free World [PDF, 18.6MB] and The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) updated Global Technical Strategy: 2016–2030 [PDF, 1.0MB]. The U.S. Government’s goal under the PMI Strategy 2015-2020 [PDF, 8.9MB] is to work with PMI-supported countries and partners to further reduce malaria deaths and substantially decrease malaria morbidity, toward the long-term goal of elimination. USAID also provides support to malaria control efforts in other countries in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Burundi and South Sudan, and one regional program in the Amazon Basin of South America. The latter program focuses primarily on identifying and containing antimalarial drug resistance.

Do you think the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid, even good aid to fight malaria? How much do you think is spent? Put your estimate in comments, please — and by all means, look for sources to see what the actual amount is.


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. (http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/12/09/health-malaria-nets-idINKBN0JN0YT20141209)

 

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.

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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?

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