DDT, egg shells, and Uganda malaria

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Wyldgusechaz, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Wyldgusechaz

    Wyldgusechaz New Member

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    The Ugandan director general of health wants the environmentalists of the developed west to back off from their high horse and let Uganda use DDT to control the widespread malaria there. He has done the research and says DDT is the best solution for the malaria mosquito. Bashes Rachel Carson a bit.

    Tough issue for me. DDT thinned egg shells of peregrine falcons( i was a falconer) and brown pelicans. I used to surf amongst the pelicans of the west coast till they were gone, now they are back. So is the peregrine. Dumping, even controlled, a large amount of a very long term pesticide in the African environment is a tough call, but having kids die of malaria is worse.

    What do you do in a case like that?
     
  2. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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  3. Wyldgusechaz

    Wyldgusechaz New Member

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    Nice find BD. I have always seen her as the mother of the environmental cause. I doubt she had done more harm than good, but you never know.
     
  4. dong20

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    This actually surfaced a while back, although the DDT issue has been around for decades.

    I read this also which puts a rather chilling perspective on the issue

    "The chief of the EU mission in Uganda, Sigurd Illing, said there could be dire consequences for the country's exports to Europe - which account for more than 30 percent of Uganda's total exports - if DDT was detected in export commodities such as horticultural produce. The EU has strict maximum limits of pesticide levels in products meant for animal or human consume, especially on prohibited chemicals such as DDT. "

    Let 100,000 die every year or risk losing the EU market?
    Use DDT and risk enviromental damage and human illness or let 100,000 die each year?

    The 2005 article is keen to point out that there is no conclusive evidence or replicated study showing that DDT is harmful or carcinogenic. Very convenient but the same was said about tobacco.

    On the subject of tobacco, entirely unsurprisngly one of the most vocal opponents to the use of DDT is BAT, well blow me down with a feather. Scumbags, may they rot in hell.

    I agree though I'm somewhat less concerned about the birds than the babies.

    DDT may be an effective short - medium term measure but the longer term solution, so far as there can be a solution is to control the sources of malarial mosquitoes themselves. That takes a huge, long term financial commitment from central Government and relentless community based action.

    Along these lines, you may find this study (it's a PDF) interesting it's comparatively recent.

    It's been about 40 years since DDT was used in Uganda, things have become much worse since then. Look at the use of DDT in South Africa for an illustration of it's effectiveness.

    If it were my responsibilty, I would seek as much immediate financial aid as possible and address with a vengence the source control issues. If funding was denied or the control measures had no measurable impact I would sanction the use of DDT within WHO guidelines.

    I would rather have hypothetical, limited environmental and economic damage on my concience than the certain continued deaths of 3000-5000 people every day if I could do something to prevent it.

    It really is a lose lose situation though. The consequences of any course of action are potentially disastrous.
     
  5. Wyldgusechaz

    Wyldgusechaz New Member

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    >>>It really is a lose lose situation though. The consequences of any course of action are potentially disastrous.<<<

    That is exactly the way to describe it. Lose/lose. Sad.
     
  6. Blocko

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    Yes, it is a lose/lose situation. DDT and it's products magnify through the food chain, which makes you wonder what will happen to the food supply in an already poor country.
     
  7. SteveHd

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    Keep in mind they're not contemplating widespread spraying as was done by agriculture before the ban. They'll hand spray it indoors similar to the way other insecticides are.

    Dong20, is "BAT" Brittish American Tobacco?
     
  8. dong20

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    Indeed, indoor spraying leaves a coating on walls to kill the mosquitoes. Sorry, yes BAT is British American Tobacco. I dug up an article outlining their position on DDT, it's on a subscription website but this is an extract from another.

    "BAT has stated that it is concerned that the use of DDT, to spray the walls of houses affected by malaria carrying mosquitos, will harm exports of tobacco and is leading a campaign against this practice.

    BAT claim they are not opposed to the use of DDT per se but are leading a group of 52 firms pointing out its potential economic harm to produce stored in people's home's subjected to DDT spraying. While there are arguments to be made about limiting the use of DDT it is strange to see a company whose profits are based on a known cancerous agent leading opposition to use DDT, which is restricted on the precautionary principle that it might do harm. It would be more acceptable if BAT were to support alternative methods of malaria reduction. "

    This article sums it up nicely as does this. (sorry another pdf).

    They're not alone in considering profit more valuable than life of course. As far as I'm concerned BAT are beneath contempt.
     
  9. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    BAT isn't the question. The proper use of insecticides is the question. DDT is hardly a "lose-lose" situation. Use it in such a way as to maximize benefit and minimize cost. There may not be an acceptable operating region in there, but there's no reason to take Rachel Carson's word for that.
     
  10. dong20

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    No BAT isn't the question per se but they wield considerable economic and, this being Uganda - political clout. That makes them relevant, I'm surprised you don't see that, or did and chose to ignore it.

    On DDT, yes I may have seemed overly cautious about it's potential for harm in real terms, to be honest I'm not sure enough is known to make a definitive statement about it one way or another, and tend to err on the side or caution. I also tend to ignore 'extreme' positions on either side of any argument and while Carson makes some interesting comments I don't take what she said as gospel either.

    My 'lose-lose' stands:

    Lose #1 - If Uganda doesn't spray DDT then over 100,000 people will likely die within the next 12 months, if you don't see that as a lose then I'm lost for words.

    Lose #2 - If they do use DDT the other lose is political and, probably economic, the EU/US etc may well seek trade concessions and/or impose restrictions based on the percieved threat of contamination, regardless of whether one actually exists. After all back in ignorant consumer land who will buy food that may contain traces of DDT? So far as they're concerned it's deadly.

    This will undermine the economy and thus the ability of the Government to make real progress in source control or obtain funding for doing so when it used DDT against the express concerns of it's major trading partners, including BAT who, let us not forget wield serious muscle back home.

    The 'plus' side of lose #2 is that more people may be alive to reap the rewards of a depleted economy. Not much is it.
     
  11. chico8

    chico8 New Member

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  12. SteveHd

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    Birth control is certainly needed, but it's no solution for malaria. Some of our troops in Iraq have gotten it. The question about is DDT is relevant, regardless.
     
  13. chico8

    chico8 New Member

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    Of course malaria affects a lot of people and having a low birthrate is no guarantee that one will be immune to it. However, looking at the DDT question without taking into consideration all the other aspects of society is extremely simplistic.
     
  14. SteveHd

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    I wasn't suggesting to NOT consider other aspects. Birth rate reduction is a good thing but it's long term. DDT is available right now.
     
  15. dong20

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    So, are you suggesting the Ugandan Government (in this instance) should do nothing? I suspect many may be somewhat offended by that idea, and your choice of words, most especially those being 'culled'.

    One of the key figures you neglected to mention is the infant mortality rate nationally which is (depending on your source) 60-84/1000 live births. This is 10x the US rate, against a birth rate if only about 3x.

    Some studies cite upper quintile rates close to 200/1000 for under 5's.

    Just to be fair, you cited the CIA factbook so I assume you believe it, so these are the figures from that site:

    Uganda Infant Mortality:
    • total: 67.22 deaths/1,000 live births
    • male: 70.92 deaths/1,000 live births
    • female: 63.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
    USA, Death rate=8.26/1000 population 2007 est.
    USA, Infant mortality= 6.37/1000 live births.

    A birth rate of 48/1000 and an infant morality rate of about 70/1000 in Uganda roughly equates to an effective birth rate today of about 44/1000.

    I agree it's far too high but lack of effective birth control programmes is only one factor.

    Yes, that's very true but the thing is, I see little or no evidence of you doing that. You just seem to have googled up some stats and presented them in a pseudo economic statement - as if that explains everything.

    Oversimplification follows:

    How about you look at the data, look at the country, try to get a truer picture of what's actually happening. Try and understand the social and economic drivers behind the high fertility rates in many African nations, the fertility rate in Uganda is among the highest on the continent. At least 50% of the total population is age 15 or younger with a total of 75% being under 30. Why do you think that is?

    The family is considered a financial and physical investment for the future. Some of this is driven by tradition, some by plain ignorance and poor education, some is simply irresponsible behaviour and lack of family planning. The Ugandan Government is in favour of family planning but lacks the resources to provide effective education about this.

    Just back on topic - mortality rate due to malaria alone for under fives in high endemic areas is 37/1000. The rate in low endemic areas is about 18/1000.

    Source: Ugandan health ministry.

    Yes, and no. High infant mortlity rates are not directly related to high birth rates per se, the major factors in that are poor post natal care and endemic disease and the lack of government resources to provide these essentials.

    A significant, sustained fall in infant mortality would almost certainly result in a fall in birth rate. By how much is hard to predict and it wouldn't be immediate. Social norms change very slowly.

    I agree that effective birth control is required, but as much for other reasons as reducing malaria deaths. As SteveHD said it's not a cure for malaria, or anything else for that matter though it would be a step in the right direction.
     
  16. chico8

    chico8 New Member

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    Societies create their own unsustainability. In Uganda's case, the societal need for large families means that women's lives will be shorter, therefore lessening the mothering their youngest children will receive. This in turn forces the father or the oldest children to become surrogate mothers, lessening the oldests' chance to get an education, provide an income to the family, etc.

    The cramped living conditions that such a fertile society creates provides the perfect breeding grounds for human pests. Lack of sewers, sufficient running water also has a huge negative impact on society. The massive birth rate also means that NO government is capable of providing basic services, much less Uganda's.

    It seems as though the people of Uganda are in dire need of common sense advice. Overpopulation kills and all the DDT in the world isn't going to make a damned bit of difference in the long run.

    Social norms may change only slowly, but the infant mortality rate and the malarial death rate will only continue to explode.

    Societies cull themselves through their own inability to grasp basic economic ideas. Just look at the US when it comes to oil...
     
  17. dong20

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    Thanks for making the effort.

    It's a long struggle to overcome such problems. If the Use of DDT can assist, even in the short term I say go for it.

    It isn't a long term solution of course but it may give Ugandan society a breathing space in which to address the underlying issues that brought about the need to use it again.

    Whether Uganda makes best use of it is another matter of course. 25 years ago I would have said not a chance, today I'm a little, but only a little more optimistic.
     
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