Chemical sparks war of words

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

A pesticide has got two factions of Kenyan scientists sneering at each other. Divisions have arisen between two of the country's premier research organisations -- the Kenya Medical Research Institute (kemri) and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) -- over the country's policy on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (ddt).

The dispute comes just before a government-commissioned task force's soon-to-be-announced recommendation on whether Kenya should continue with the ban on ddt or reintroduce the pesticide as a vector-control measure to combat malaria. Calling Kenya's 1990 ban on ddt a hasty and poorly researched move, researchers at KEMRI argue that the pesticide is needed to check malaria, which claims about 700 Kenyan lives daily.

Scientists at icipe support the ban, highlighting the health and environmental hazards of DDT. They also argue that DDT use would be ruinous for Kenya's economy, and for the entire East African belt, as Europe is tightening restrictions on insecticide residues in horticulture and fish products from the region.

Prohibited in many countries, DDT is one of the 12 chemicals under attack from the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants -- the global treaty that is pushing for restricted use of toxic chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long.

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