Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fighting malaria with DDT in South Africa

*Well duh*

Taken directly from the first two paragraphs, "In Dzumeri in Limpopo in Northern province, men in blue overalls are readying themselves for the malaria season." And, "Armed for battle against one of Africa's deadly diseases, they brandish canisters filled with the deadly insecticide DDT."

Well, um, yes it's meant to be deadly. Why bother with an insecticide that's not deadly? It's meant to kill bugs, pests and vectors after all. What is an insecticide but a highly highly dilute nerve agent? It's simply meant to kill things a lot smaller than us that's all. But it's also worth noting that the incidences of malaria shot up particularly in the 3rd World after DDT was banned.

Now, it is true that there culd be a great number of reasons why this was the case, not least the possibility that there was no real causal link not least because of the fallacy of Post Hoc, Egro Propter Hoc. Just because B happened after A doesn't mean that A caused B. It might very well be that DDT was so effectively that all it did was to jumpstart the resistance of mozzies to such a chemical and the reprieve from the use of DDT was all that was needed to imbune the mozzies with resistance when less effective insecticides were used. But that doesn't quite explain why it's still so effective today.

But more to the point. Where's all the dire warnings of environmental disaster was to befall us despite the fact we stopped using DDT. Now that I think about it, so what if DDT accumulated in our fatty tissue (granted, it wasn't just us but along the food chain), alot of chemicals do so without any particular harmful effect. More to the point, the cost-benefit analysis seemed to have gone to pot because of the eco-doom arguments that were raging at that point in time. Where environmental damage is limited and can be limited, use of such chemicals or processes has to be considered. BUT where there are more effecacious alternatives, then those need to be considered. HOWEVER, lest we forget, cost is and always will be an issue, and sometimes being in a affluent society, we tend to forget the limitations that poverty brings along with it.

Maybe, our dengue problems will be over soon as well.



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