Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The environment or lives?

Tanzania reverses ban on DDT

May 8, 2006 — DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania is lifting a 2004 ban on the pesticide DDT so it can be used to fight mosquitoes carrying malaria in the east African nation.

Tanzania had signed up to an international treaty — known as the Stockholm Convention — which seeks to outlaw the use of dangerous industrial chemicals dubbed the "dirty dozen" and blamed for deaths, cancer or birth defects.

DDT, while covered by the convention, is exempted when used for disease control.

Health Minister David Mwakyusa said Tanzania was reversing the prohibition because malaria, which is one of Africa's biggest killers, was claiming so many lives.

"We have been forced to reconsider the use of the DDT to try to save the lives of our people," he said at the weekend.

A malaria expert in Dar es Salaam, who asked not to be named, expressed concern at the decision to re-introduce DDT.

"This should not have been rushed...we need to look into the pro and cons very closely," he told Reuters.

"DDT is one of the scientific inventions that has caused health and environmental havoc."
Good for them. The people of Tanzania would prefer to live and take their chances with DDT, rather than risk suffering and often dying from malaria. You can bet that the "malaria expert" is wealthy enough that he need not worry about mosquitoes, or if he does fall ill, he can afford medicine.

Health officials frequently ask for more Western aid so they can set up mosquito nets to put around beds, but those are relatively costly, take time to distribute, and do not protect people as they go about their day. The various medicines used to treat malaria are even more expensive. DDT, on the other hand, is a highly cost-effective and preventative. However, as Thomas Sowell explained,
The whole environmental extremist movement is based on doing Good Things, in utter disregard of costs or diminishing returns.

The idea that DDT might leave residues with harmful effects on the eggs of some birds was enough to set off a worldwide environmental crusade to ban the use of that insecticide. The resurgence of malaria after that ban has cost millions of human lives.


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