Bill Gates demonstrates why we should make DDT legal again in the US

The founder of MicroSoft loosed a jar full of mosquitos in a talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference (TED) today while talking about the death toll due to malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. Of course he thinks it’s a good idea to spend $10 per mosquito net in order to give people an imperfect barrier against mosquitos, instead of spending a few cents per house to spray the inside of a one-room mud-brick house with DDT and keep mosquitos (and other nasty creepy crawlies) dead instead of biting people. It’s harmless to people. Limited spraying like this does not get into the water supply in any significant way. The problem with DDT came when it was massively sprayed and slopped all over the place, not when it was used in quantities sufficient to rid homes and backyards near malarial swamps of their mosquitos.

Malaria kills a million people every year, and numbers are rising. Keep this in mind as you think about the falsified scientific experiments on egg thickness.

Even this pro-bug and thus anti-DDT entomologist admits that DDT was a useful part of a malaria-prevention effort in Eritrea in 2006, and that DDT can be an effective part of a complete anti-malaria health strategy. I note that one of her objections to DDT use is the following.

countries choosing to use DDT may face sanctions on agricultural products from the EU. We don’t want to hurt the growing economies of Africa by clinging to an old solution.

Rather than a proof of the unsuitability of DDT, this merely underlines the problem with demonizing solutions, even partial solutions, to a serious problem. The EU needs to repeal the regulations that prevent Africa from exporting food to Europe. That is surely the real reasoning behind the anti-DDT food importation rules, to protect jobs of French farmers at the expense of African farmers, who need insecticides such as DDT in their homes if not in their fields.

Let me quote the WHO’s announcement that it was restoring DDT to its anti-malaria tool set.

I asked my staff; I asked malaria experts around the world: “Are we using every possible weapon to fight this disease?” It became apparent that we were not. One powerful weapon against malaria was not being deployed. In a battle to save the lives of nearly one million children ever year – most of them in Africa – the world was reluctant to spray the inside of houses and huts with insecticides; especially with a highly effective insecticide known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or “DDT.”

Even though indoor spraying with DDT and other insecticides had been remarkably effective preventing malaria sickness and death where used, this strategy seemed to have been abandoned by most countries nearly 30 years ago. By the early 1980s, WHO was no longer actively promoting it.

Some people told me that there was a good reason why its wide scale use had been phased out. I was told the practice was unsafe for humans, birds, fish and wildlife; that the use of DDT in the United States in the 1950s had led to the near extinction of the bald eagle. I was told that indoor spraying with DDT was “politically unpopular.”

But I believe that public health policies must be based on the science and the data, not on conventional wisdom or politics. As we examined the issue, we found that the scientific and programmatic evidence told a different story: We found that:

  • One of the best tools we have against malaria is indoor residual house spraying, as it has proven to be just as cost effective as other malaria prevention measures.
  • Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT.
  • DDT presents no health risk when used properly indoors. Well-managed indoor spraying programmes using DDT pose no harm to wildlife or to humans.

That is why today, after this reevaluation, the World Health Organization is announcing that indoor residual spraying with DDT and other insecticides will again play a major role in its efforts to fight the disease.

I suspect much of the debate boils down to the insoluble difference between those who value human life above insects and those who do not. I realize that insects outmass humanity, outmass mammalia, and outmass vertebrates on Earth. That does not mean we need to lie down and become bug food. DDT can help people lie down and not become bug food. It’s hard to see how anyone who believes in the principle of protecting human life would be against it, once the experimental facts about its efficacy and safety are known. Given this, it is important that DDT is made legal in the US again, because of the tremendous signal this would send to the rest of the world. Though the US doesn’t suffer from malaria today, the malarial swamps in the southern US are called malarial swamps for a reason. And by reintroducing DDT to the US, in uses where it is valuable, we can save lives tomorrow in Africa and Asia.

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7 thoughts on “Bill Gates demonstrates why we should make DDT legal again in the US

  1. Nice quote mining. Nowhere have I ever said that I am anti-DDT because I think that mosquitoes should have priority over humans.
    What I have said is that it’s a control method whose time is done, and that better methods need to be used.

    I have systematically gone through and destroyed most pro DDT arguments. I notice you did not link to my posts detailing why using DDT will cause faster resistance to the insecticides used in bednets. That is a major problem.
    http://membracid.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/new-malaria-research-insecticide-cross-resistance/

    http://membracid.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/ddt-malaria-insecticide-resistance/

  2. It’s interesting that you cite as authoritative a fraud science report that is corroborated by no other piece of research, and which was never submitted for peer review. Gordon Edwards, for all of his long career as an entomologist, seems to have been completely bizarre about DDT. There is no piece of research which does NOT support the hypothesis that DDT and its daughter products cause the thinning of eggshells. Worse, DDT also kills chicks in the egg, and kills chicks even after they are hatched. DDT also produces injury to reproductive organs in utero — chicks that survive to adulthood may not be capable of breeding at all.

    Edwards must misunderstand the feeding studies. The studies he worries about found that feeding DDT to non-predator birds was least deadly — it killed 80 percent of the chicks by preventing their hatching, or 100 percent if they all managed to hatch. In short, Edwards got the research exactly wrong — you can read about it here:
    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2007/11/08/100-things-about-ddt-dissecting-10/

    Malaria kills about a million people a year, a number to which the death rate has fallen. There is no study to suggest that continued application of DDT in the wild can reduce malaria deaths, but several studies that indicate it would increase malaria deaths by killing off the predators of mosquitoes. There is no study to suggest that use of DDT in indoor residual spraying by itself can improve any death rates at all. DDT can help, but only in conjunction with several other methods of fighting malaria.

    Bednets run about $6.00 a bed, by the way, and have a life of about five years. That’s $1.20/year. DDT spraying now costs about $12.00/house, and must be done about twice a year. How you get from $24.00/year for DDT to a claim it’s cheaper than $1.20 a year with bednets is a math trick that I do not believe will survive scrutiny.

    And, by the way, it turns out that DDT use in Africa, in the much-reduced, IRS form, is supported by Environmental Defense, the leading environmental organization against DDT — but opposed by Ugandan businessmen and the Bush administration. Can you imagine trying to sort out just why the Bush administration stopped paying for extremely limited DDT use, and why businessmen are opposed to DDT when environmentalists are not?

    Well, no, I suppose you can’t. You don’t even get the facts right about who is on which side, how much DDT use there is, whether DDT works, how much it costs, or why it matters.

    Wankery sucks in the best of people.

  3. Fraud science? What about Rachel Carson’s enormous fraud deliberately misrepresenting research again and again in “Silent Spring” in order to make her fraudulent point?

    *feh*

    Gimme a glass of DDT. It’s better than the poison you’re selling.

  4. BTW, it amuses me no end that Rachel Carson lived only 57 years on this planet before her lying mouth was silenced, while J. Gordon Edwards, who famously ate a teaspoon of DDT before every lecture he gave refuting her lies, lived to the ripe old age of 84 and died… while mountain climbing.

    But we live in the age of The Lie. Anthropogenic Global Warming (renamed the redundant “Climate Change” when none of its predictions came about… and its adherents could not even use its models to “postdict” previous climate conditions). “War on Poverty” (now, that’s a quagmire! Where’s the exit strategy?) and “Silent Spring”. Which of these Big Lies will be the cause of the most human suffering? Time will tell, but so far, Rachel Carson bids well to rival Hitler and Stalin for her record of contributing to mass murder.

  5. Yeah, fraud science. Gordon Edwards said that the seed-eating birds that were fed DDT hatched better than those that didn’t get DDT. He cut the researcher’s actual words at the end of that phrase; the sentence ended with “but in that case, all the chicks died within days.”

    Tell you what, thirdworldcountry: You tell us what statement of Rachel Carson’s you claim is in error, we’ll point you to the research. Please don’t generalize. Remember that the President’s Science Advisory Council in 1963 found Carson was dead right on everything, and recall that Discover Magazine found in 2007 more than 1,000 studies corroborating Carson’s statements on birds, and none contradicting.

    What sort of cynic is amused by a woman’s dying of breast cancer?

    Where’s the error? We’re all from Missouri. Show us.

  6. Rest in peace Bakouma Kpatekatola, who died of malaria at the age of 14 in Togo, which does not have any IRS/DDT spraying program.

    Read more at iowahawk.

  7. Fraud science? What about Rachel Carson’s enormous fraud deliberately misrepresenting research again and again in “Silent Spring” in order to make her fraudulent point?

    Coming up on a month since my challenge to Thirdworldcounty to show any error Rachel Carson made. Nothing from him.

    Issue closed, eh?

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