Contra John Quiggin and Tim Lambert, DDT is usually the most cost-effective anti-malaria treatment, and remains scandalously underusedby Roger Bate / May 24, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
The environmentalist assault on the chemical DDT has come at an extremely high cost in human life. It is impossible to know how many people have died needlessly from malaria, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases in the absence of DDT, but it must be millions.
Many environmental groups cut their teeth pushing for bans on agricultural uses of DDT. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring (1962) was the starting point for much of this, although Carson is certainly not to blame for the environmental crusade that occurred against the chemical after her death in 1964. Silent Spring made important points about the dangers of overuse of agrochemicals, of which DDT was a major component. But it was short on good medical science. For example, Carson led the reader to believe that in one instance, after spraying DDT, a housewife developed leukaemia and died within three months. Such a claim has no scientific validity; in terms of danger to humans, DDT is one of the safest insecticides ever developed.