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DDT and Malaria Prevention: Addressing the Paradox
School of Environmental Sciences and Development, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5972-1852
2011 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, ISSN 0091-6765, E-ISSN 1552-9924, Vol. 119, no 6, 744-747 p.Article in journal, Editorial material (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: The debate regarding dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in malaria prevention and human health is polarized and can be classified into three positions: anti-DDT, centrist-DDT, pro-DDT.

Objective: We attempted to arrive at a synthesis by matching a series of questions on the use of DDT for indoor residual spraying (IRS) with literature and insights, and to identify options and opportunities.

Discussion: Overall, community health is significantly improved through all available malaria control measures, which include IRS with DDT. Is DDT “good”? Yes, because it has saved many lives. Is DDT safe as used in IRS? Recent publications have increasingly raised concerns about the health implications of DDT. Therefore, an unqualified statement that DDT used in IRS is safe is untenable. Are inhabitants and applicators exposed? Yes, and to high levels. Should DDT be used? The fact that DDT is “good” because it saves lives, and “not safe” because it has health and environmental consequences, raises ethical issues. The evidence of adverse human health effects due to DDT is mounting. However, under certain circumstances, malaria control using DDT cannot yet be halted. Therefore, the continued use of DDT poses a paradox recognized by a centrist-DDT position. At the very least, it is now time to invoke precaution. Precautionary actions could include use and exposure reduction.

Conclusions: There are situations where DDT will provide the best achievable health benefit, but maintaining that DDT is safe ignores the cumulative indications of many studies. In such situations, addressing the paradox from a centrist-DDT position and invoking precaution will help design choices for healthier lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 119, no 6, 744-747 p.
Keyword [en]
effects, health, indoor residual spraying, malaria vector management, precaution
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-68917DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1002127ISI: 000291152000015PubMedID: 21245017OAI: diva2:422011
Available from: 2011-06-10 Created: 2011-06-10 Last updated: 2015-05-28

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