As the American humorist Will Rogers said: “It’s not what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”
“Things that you know that ain't so"
“DDT is dangerous and banning it was justified.”
In her book, “The Silent Spring" Rachel Carson claimed that DDT was seriously reducing wild bird populations in spite of the fact that the evidence showed an increase since the introduction of DDT.
The World Health Organisation scientists examined Rachel’s claims and concluded that there might be good reasons for banning its use outside houses but it was quite safe and very effective if used inside houses. Their political masters ignored their advice and decided on a universal ban. In 1972 an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency recommended that DDT should remain available for use. The administrator of the EPA ignored this advice and banned DDT. The US government picked this up and threatened to stop aid for any country using DDT.
The DDT ban has probably killed more than 100 million people – many of them children. Before the ban, malaria and other insect borne diseases were in steady decline and in the Southern United States and many other countries malaria had been reduced or eradicated.
In the Pacific malaria, chickengunya and dengue fever are on the increase. In Africa, the situation is much worse. These mosquito borne diseases could be eliminated easily and safely by spraying the inside of houses with DDT.
In 2006 the World Health Organisation world cleared DDT for use inside houses. But the unfounded belief that DDT is dangerous overrides the scientific evidence so few countries use DDT and people continue to get sick and to die.
"Things you know that ain’t so" is a weekly column by Bryan Leyland exposing the truth behind popular misconceptions.