DDT was banned long ago, so why is it still affecting your health?

DDT was banned long ago, so why is it still affecting your health?

The New Year always encourages us to look ahead to the (hopefully brighter) future, but sometimes moving ahead means reconciling with the past. The lingering presence of DDT, and its continued effects on the health of the environment and, really, most of us, is one stark reminder of how harmful practices of the recent past continue to threaten lives in the present.

DDT is an organochorine pesticide that was heavily used during and after WWII to control malaria, body lice, typhus, and the bubonic plague (!). In 1972, it was banned in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency after more than a decade of mounting evidence about its damaging effects on human health and the environment. Although the Stockholm Convention on POPs (Persistent Organochloride Pollutants) banned the use of DDT worldwide (except for malaria control) in 2001, 5 years later the WHO declared its support for the indoor use of DDT against malaria in African countries where malaria remained a major health problem.

Do the benefits of using DDT to control malaria and other deadly mosquito-borne diseases outweigh the risks? The answer may depend on your perspective: how likely are you to die from malaria? Are the global health risks from exposure to DDT and its by-products a more insidious problem, in the long run, than the global incidence of death by malaria in the short-term?

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