World Health Organization endorses controlled use of DDT to fight malaria

Reversing a 30-year-old policy, the World Health Organization on Friday announced that the pesticide DDT, used indoors in moderation, is critical to fighting malaria, and argued that such use won’t harm people or the environment. Applied to the inside walls of dwellings once or twice a year, DDT will join with medications and pesticide-treated bed nets in what officials hope will be an effective malaria-fighting trifecta, particularly in Africa. Widely sprayed on farm fields in the mid-20th century, DDT was banned in much of the world starting in the 1970s after it was found to enter the food chain, killing birds and wildlife and posing a cancer threat to humans. Environmental groups are conflicted about the WHO’s announcement — the Sierra Club voiced “reluctant” support, the Pesticide Action Network expressed concern but said it wouldn’t try to block the move, and Beyond Pesticides said it was opposed. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) had no such reservations: “Finally … we can put to rest the junk science and myths that have provided aid and comfort to the real enemy — mosquitoes.”