Yes, another rant on DDT. You can read my other rants here, here, here and here. What brings on the latest rant you ask? It's the debut of "A Sense of Wonder", a film about Rachel Carson, at North Country Community College in celebration of National Women's History Month.
There is some disagreement about how much responsibility Rachel Carson deserves for the drastic reduction in the use of DDT to control malaria worldwide. Carson was not opposed to using DDT to control disease. However, the reduction in the use of DDT to control disease, especially malaria, has been attributed to her book "Silent Spring".
"Silent Spring" also led to the formation of the Environmental Defense Fund an organization I generally support. Unfortunately, on the issue of the use of DDT to control malaria, I'm of the opinion that the EDF provides some vary slanted information concerning the effects of DDT in humans (although they do somewhat support the use of DDT for indoor spraying in malaria control).
Concerning a relationship between cancer and DDT the EDF writes:
Most of what we know about DDT's toxicity to humans (as with many chemicals) is derived from laboratory-animal studies, which have demonstrated that DDT is likely to cause cancers and other health problems.EDF makes it sound like this relationship has been scientifically proven. According to the Malaria Foundation International which cites an article published in Lancet, it has not. Exotoxnet, a consortium of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University and the University of California at Davis says
Thus it appears that DDT may have the potential to cause genotoxic effects in humans, but does not appear to be strongly mutagenicand, concerning cancer,
no significant associations were seen between DDT exposure and diseaseEDF also claims:
To attribute the resurgence in malaria to a failure to use one specific pesticide is not only misleading, it's incorrect.There is evidence and opinion that says otherwise, this article published in PLOS for instance or this article published in Science News.
Fortunately, the WHO is promoting the indoor use of DDT to prevent malaria. You can learn much more about how DDT prevent malaria by going here.