Cover of August 2008 Emerging Infectious Diseases from the CDC, featuring: Jan Steen (c. 1625–1679). Beware of Luxury (c. 1665). Oil on canvas 105 cm x 145 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Weighing risks against benefits for DDT spraying is very difficult. Anti-environmentalists and junk science purveyors claim millions of deaths from DDT’s not being sprayed.
They never tell us about the kids DDT could kill.
When we combine data from North America on preterm delivery or duration of lactation and DDE with African data on DDT spraying and the effect of preterm birth or lactation duration on infant deaths, we estimate an increase in infant deaths that is of the same order of magnitude as that from eliminating infant malaria. Therefore, the side effects of DDT spraying might reduce or abolish its benefit from the control of malaria in infants, even if such spraying prevents all infant deaths from malaria.
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The prohibition of DDT use for malaria control was probably not the sole cause of increasing malaria burden in sub-Saharan Africa (40), and thus DDT will probably not be the sole cure for the malaria epidemic there. Insecticide-treated bed nets, widely used in African households to prevent mosquito bites, are effective (41,42). Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, cheaper than DDT, are available (43,44). Where DDT is used, all infant deaths, plus birth weights and the duration of lactation, should be counted. Some thought could also be given to a formal trial, since the risk and benefit calculations apply to individual dwellings, and an effective alternative, namely bed nets, is available. (Chen A, Rogan WJ. Nonmalarial infant deaths and DDT use for malaria control. Emerg Infect Dis [serial online] 2003 Aug. Available from: URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3020610/)
Go read it — the issue of spraying or not is complex, and this study talks only about infant deaths (there may be greater life saving among older children and adults that would make the infant deaths a trade off policy makers would consider, for example). It’s a study from the Centers for Disease Control, part of a continuing series of technical publications from CDC titled Emerging Infectious Diseases. This series tracks much of the work done to fight malaria world wide.
This is valuable information. It shows the issue is much more complex that just “spray or don’t spray.” It’s also information that JunkScience.com hopes you will not pursue. It’s real information, and it refutes the junk science claims from that site.
(In June 2004 the denialists at Africa Fighting Malaria had a letter published complaining about this paper’s findings, but offering no data in rebuttal.)
A more clear image from Wikimedia Commons of Jan Steen’s painting, “Beware of Luxury.” Click on cover of journal at top of post for a discussion of this painting and how it relates to infectious diseases.