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Issue 33
, 2011
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DDT losing grounds against malaria; time to find alternatives

Source: CVB News Service, Date: , 2011

DDT, the most controversial Persistent Organic Pollutant is banned by almost every country in the world due to its acute toxicity. However, in India the chemical is still widely used for the vector control. It’s an irony since India itself banned its use against agricultural pests way back in 1989 owing to credible scientific evidences of its ill impact on ecology and life. The only argument that goes in favour of using DDT is that it is useful in controlling malaria. However, the statistical evidences prove that DDT has lost grounds against malaria and is no longer an effective tool for vector control.India is the only country manufacturing DDT from its HIL plant in Kerela.

“Its banned in several countries and was also banned in India for agricultural use in the year 1989 due to credible evidences of its toxicity and ill impacts on not only humans but also on the wildlife and the environment. So in the humans, it depends upon the kind of exposure, it can be through mother’s milk, can be through food chain, and can be through mother’s womb also,” said Rajeev Betne of Toxic Links.

  It can be through any media, depends upon only what kind of concentration and what kind of media is there, he added.

Researchers say using more DDT can actually prove to be counterproductive. Several reports have been published indicating that exposure to DDT can be carcinogenic. Experts believe DDT is a great threat to the wild life, particularly birds.Spraying DDT for agricultural purpose can degrade the fertility of soil. Once it finds its place in the food chain it has long and acute health impacts. Human epidemiological studies suggest that exposure is a risk factor for premature birth and low birth weight, and may harm a mother's ability to breast feed.

“The crops health as well as the soil fertility and the birds who were in the field, their number reduced. Also the fertility got reduced. Ultimately the DDT goes through percolation and to the ground water and the ground water also get contaminated.”said Prashant Rajankar , Scientist.

Studies show that DDT has lost effectiveness in tropical regions due to the continuous life cycle of mosquitoes and poor infrastructure. They also show that the parasite has become resistant to DDT especially following the disease's resurgence. Resistance is largely due to agricultural use, in much greater quantities than required for disease prevention. Even in India, DDT spraying over the years did not interrupt malaria transmission. Unfortunately, the average casualty too rose over the last three decades; clearly suggesting DDT is loosing strength.

“The effectiveness of DDT has been lost in India. There are theories like the doses for the malaria control were not appropriate. The doses were far less than what was recommended. This is one of the reasons why the life cycle of malaria was not stopped. And also in tropical region, DDT is less effective because there is continues cycle of malaria.”

It’s time we make policies to phase-out DDT and look for the alternatives available. The time has come to rigorously look for safer and cost-effective alternative regime and do away completely with this toxic burden.