DDT poised for a comeback to fight malaria in Africa

Hoping to gain ground in the fight against malaria, the World Health Organization will soon endorse the spraying of DDT in small amounts inside homes in afflicted areas. In May, the U.S. Agency for International Development made a similar endorsement. Malaria, spread by mosquitoes, kills as many as a million people a year, 90 percent of them in Africa. DDT wiped out malaria in the U.S. in the 1940s, and was used to fight the disease around the globe in the ’50s and ’60s. But it was also heavily applied to farm fields during that era, and was found to wreak havoc on ecosystems and cause reproductive problems in wildlife and humans. Beginning in the 1970s, the U.S. and many European countries banned DDT, and pressured African nations to follow suit. But other malaria-fighting methods haven’t managed to wipe out the disease, so health officials are again leaning toward limited use of DDT. Enviros are split on the issue; Greenpeace, for example, opposes use of DDT, while the Sierra Club acknowledges that closely monitored use of the pesticide can be important in fighting malaria.