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The story of DDT and Malaria (History ) - Essay Example

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The story of DDT and Malaria (History )

This era witnessed the introduction of DDT at a time when its long-term effects were unknown, and in 1950 the US House of Representatives opened hearings to investigate the use of chemicals and additives to food products.3 In 1962 Rachel Carson wrote her landmark book Silent Spring, which brought about public scrutiny in regards to the safety of the fertilizer, insecticide, and pesticide programs that were being used in domestic agriculture. Since that time the US has escalated their drive to monitor the use of chemicals in the food chain and have maintained a policy of the evaluation and licensing the use of hazardous chemicals with the goal of creating safer consumer products. While this policy has brought thousands of products under the scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DDT was one of the first and most visible victims of this program.
During the 1950s the World Health Organization (WHO) pursued a policy of widespread use of DDT in Asia, Latin America, and Africa in an effort to eliminate the mosquitoes that transmitted the deadly disease of malaria. By 1971 the WHO estimated that as many as 1 billion people had been freed from the risk on contracting malaria.4 However, there were dangers lurking in the shadows of this success. Because there was a chance of the insects building up a resistance to DDT over time, it was necessary to spray the infected areas on a regular and diligent schedule. In addition, the WHO failed to account for several variables that worked against the program. Local bureaucratic governments failed to spray regularly, infected individuals imported the disease, and interest in the program was waning in the Western nations where malaria had been wiped out.5 By the late 1970s malaria borne mosquitoes had become immune from DDT due to irregular spraying, and the ill effects on the human population had become more widely publicized. According to Watts, the Green Movement launched "a massive campaign against all further use of DDT for any purpose anywhere in the world", and protested the enormous effects of science on nature.6 The 1970s also ushered in the creation of the EPA, which began a concerted effort on the part of government to protect the environment and limit the ill health effects on humans from man made chemicals.
While the United States was able to ban the use of DDT for any purpose in 1972, critics contended that the lives saved from malaria and typhus outweighed the risk in some parts of the world. During the previous 25 years, approximately 675,000 tons had been applied in the United States reaching a peak in 1959 when nearly 80 million pounds were applied, and by the time of the ban the use had declined to approximately 13 million pounds used primarily on cotton.7 Insecticides have historically been used on cotton more than any other US crop, and the excessive use of DDT on cotton had resulted in pest management problems due to the resistance built up in the target pests.8 The declining effectiveness of DDT had become apparent in the United States as well as the rest of the world. However, the United States opted for a complete ban ...Show more


In 1962, just 14 years after Paul Hermann received the Noble prize for his discovery of the "high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods", author and environmentalist Rachel Carson alerted the American public to the irreversible chain of evil introduced by the notorious pesticide.1,2 How was such a looming environmental disaster allowed to work its way into the world food chain Powerful social and cultural forces combined with the pragmatism of saving lives worked to propel DDT beyond the standard of the usual caution that accompanies most new chemicals or inventions.
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The story of DDT and Malaria (History Essay) essay example
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