Back like a bad penny

115 nations, 12 dirty chemicals and a compromise that leaves DDT free to further pollutethe foodchain

By Mario
Published: Friday 15 October 1999

It seems that ddt will not be banned. Over 115 nations which met to negotiate a convention on persistant organic pollutants (pops ) have agreed not to do so. The excuse, perhaps rather lame, is that the substance is needed to combat malaria. Popularly known by its acronym ddt , it was the villain of the piece in the late 50s and shook the world out of its complacency towards pesticides.

Several industrial nations have banned the substance, which is known for its ability to render birds sterile, enter the food chain and persist in its original form without degrading for a long period of time. It is referred to as an hormonal disrupter which affects the reproductive system and is suspected to have carcinogenic properties.

ddt has been found in Inuit mothers' milk in Canada and can travel there from Asia. When a toxic substance sprayed in a poor person's world ends up affecting a rich person in another part of the world, it is time to think of it as one world.

What has come as a major setback to the efforts of environmentalists and health experts is that more than two dozen countries rely upon ddt for their malaria eradication programme. Malaria claims more than 1.1 million lives in the third world annually. If ddt spraying were to be discontinued, the death roll, certain health experts argue could go up substantially. ddt was also used widely in Bihar to control Kala Azar, a fatal form of fever, transmitted by the sandfly.

While the who and the wwf has raised objections against continuing with ddt , the us has gone a step further to say that less dangerous pesticides could be used to combat malaria. No one has bothered to think that there is a lack of research vis a vis malaria. There is no vaccine for malaria. It is given low priority because it is a poor nation's disease. This attitude has left poor nations with cheap and dangerous alternatives. Also, is there any guarantee that this cheap pesticide will not be used by the poor Indian farmer to pollute further?

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