Feb. 10, 2010, 12:17 p.m.
7 October 2008
Although DDT has been "highly effective" in controlling mosquito populations in highly malaria-endemic regions, there are "serious drawbacks" to the use of the insecticide, Cesar Chelala, an international public health consultant, writes in an Epoch Times opinion piece.
Chelala writes that DDT "easily enters the food chain and persists for many years in the environment," which can cause "serious harm to wildlife." In addition, mosquitoes can develop resistance to the insecticide over time, making it necessary to pursue alternative malaria interventions, according to Chelala. However, a recent project carried out in Mexico and Central America demonstrated that the "toxic effects" of DDT can be avoided with public health campaigns that include environmental and educational interventions to fight malaria, Chelala writes.
The project -- funded by the United Nations Environmental Program and the Global Environmental Facility with technical support from the Pan American Health Organization -- found that public health measures helped to reduce the number of malaria cases by 63% from 2004 to 2007 in "demonstration areas" selected for high levels of malaria transmission, Chelala writes. In addition, malaria had "practically been eliminated" in some demonstration areas in Honduras and Mexico, Chelala writes, adding that plans are "underway" to expand the project to other malaria-endemic regions.
The campaign, based on strategies recommended by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the World Health Organization , included community treatment of larval breeding sites, improving housing conditions, clearing vegetation, eliminating stagnant water and awareness campaigns about malaria transmission, Chelala says, adding that an "important aspect" of the campaign was the participation of volunteer community health workers trained to make early diagnoses and administer treatment to people with malaria and their immediate contacts. According to Chelala, the campaign prevented negative effects on the environment and public health by refraining from DDT use and demonstrated that "an effective campaign against malaria can be waged" at a "much lower cost" without DDT. The "enormous savings" gained from not using DDT also can be "put to good use with other diseases," Chelala writes, concluding that "this approach can be used as time goes by on a wide range of developing countries, not only in the Americas, but in Africa and Asia as well" (Chelala, Epoch Times,10/6).