Posted by: bklunk | October 15, 2006

Posner’s a Lawyer, Right?

minabg opens an interesting conversation about using DDT to combat malaria in the Global South. A necessary bit of background here is that in late September, WHO endorsed greater use of DDT to kill malaria-bearing mosquitos. So there are IR elements to this question. I can hardly wait to see minabg pursue this topic.

On the other hand, taking a critical view: what are Posner’s credentials for taking this stand?

DDT, Malaria and Environment

Blog that interested me was Posner blog, which is talking about the using DDT indoors. Richard Posner is a senior lecturer in law at University of Chicago Law school. He graduated from Harvard Law school. He wrote a lot of books, and one of those was Catastrophe: Risk and response that he mention in his blog.
I find his blog about DDT, Malaria and the environment very interesting and it makes me think. He says that he is a big environmentalist and that he is against usage of DDT as a herbicide but that he is for it’s usage against malaria.
Use of DDT is forbidden by The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants since 2001, but with an exception of using it in fight against malaria. It’s allowed to use it in South Africa because there is the highest percentage of people killed by that illnes. He is wondering why is Bill and Melinda Gates foundation spending hundreds of millions of dollars, in search for a vaccine that will prevent malaria, and do not donate some of that money for concrete things that have proven to help. like spraying with DDT. It is not preventing malaria but it is killing the infected mosquito, and with it there are little less chances of getting infected. It can not prevent it for sure, but it can lower the percentage of diseased.
Before reading this blog i didn’t know that much about this topic, especially about Gates foundation, and about how DDT could help in struggle against malaria. I totally agree with him on this topic and if this is the way to decrease the number of people killed by malaria then it should definitely be used.

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  1. My issue is that sure, the people live now by spraying ddt, but later on the reprecussions are horrible. DDT not only hurts the environment, but it is also shown that it is damaging to people, the risk of preterm birth increases by 33% which in the countries where malaria is widespread could be extremely dangerous on its own, with out proper early birth care the chances of a preterm baby (at least one month pre-term) surviving is only 5%. DDT also causes mothers to cease lactating earlier so the children living in poverty conditions that could generally rely on their mothers milk can no longer due to shortened lactation time. Sure it would be nice if the spraying of ddt would really eliminate malaria, but it would merely eliminate the mosquitos that potentially carry malaria. 5-8% of malaria is transmitted mother to child, so the elimination of the mosquitos would not eliminate the problem, it would just lessen it. (information retrieved from )

  2. There is a reason that DDT was banned in the U.S. The book Silent Spring alleged that DDT caused cancer and thinned egg shells, hurting bird reproduction. Also, Kristen brings up plenty of other reprecussions. I’m not saying that DDT absolutely cannot be used, but we ought to be careful with dangerous chemicals. We’ve seen the reprecussions of agent orange in Vietnam as well as Plan Colombia. Unless tests can prove for good that these dangerous affects will not happen, it is irresponsible for the U.S. to advocate its use. Until that time, malaria vaccinations ought to be made more readily available instead.

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