Blogs > Cliopatria > DDT Revisited

Apr 12, 2004 6:45 pm

DDT Revisited

Way back in January, I promised to try to pull together material on the safety of DDT. My following through got entangled in the difficulty of finding scientific articles that look back over the history of the research and the crush of a really busy semester.

Well, here’s a link to a New York Times article by Tina Rosenberg supporting greater (but careful) use of DDT, particularly in Africa. It’s not really a scientific article, but it’s good enough for me to call it installment one in my fulfilling my old promise.

The article’s not perfect. Although Rosenberg does a fine job of describing how responsible spraying might be possible, she never gives a firm sense of what the tradeoffs between environmental harm and malaria prevention might be. More troubling, she does not seem willing to assume that those African leaders who support the ban might have rational reasons to do so willingly. One that occurs to me is a long term concern both for the environment and the tourism it supports.

Still, it’s well worth reading, and far more careful than the snide Michael Crichton speech that first irritated me last December.

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Jonathan Dresner - 4/13/2004

Yeah, I think so. But we haven't had a local outbreak for a while, as I understand it. I'll tell you, though, you have to spray EVERYTHING because asian tigers will bite anything that doesn't actively repel them.

Anne Zook - 4/12/2004

Most especially, I'm concerned about the effects on babies and toddlers. They're much more vulnerable.

Michael C Tinkler - 4/12/2004

But isn't the Asian Tiger a carrier of Dengue? My sister lived in Singapore for 3 years and Dengue was the main concern of parents there (two of her near neighbors actually got it, though their children didn't). Her sons (who were 1 and 3 when they got to singapore were TRULY conditioned to stop at the back door and wait for an adult to spray 'em down before they went out to play!

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/12/2004

Sprayed in houses it just can't lead to the kind of trophic concentrations that threaten species. Just what its long term effects on humans are ...

Jonathan Dresner - 4/12/2004

There's another thing that was missing from the article, in my opinion. The fastest growing breed of mosquitos in the US is the Asian Tiger, noteworthy for its willingness to wander about and bite people at any hour of the day. They are very common here in Hawai'i, and I can attest to their relentless ubiquity. They are also the foremost carriers of West Nile, but I don't think they're malarial carriers. But it raises the question of tactics: if indoor spraying isn't enough to protect you from the mosquitos in question (as it wouldn't be here), what do you do? The traditional answer has been "bug repellent" but who can remember to put the stuff on all the time?

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