AFM's response to the Berkeley study on DDT
Please find below Africa Fighting Malaria's official response to the Eskenazi
et al. study linking prenatal exposure to DDT with neurodevelopmental problems.
This was sent to journalists around the world today, along with a summary of
the science behind DDT and human health, which follows the statement below.
Please feel free to circulate.
Have a nice day,
*Africa Fighting Malaria responds to Berkeley University study into DDT and
Neurodevelopment in Children *
*July 10, 2006*
Once again media attention has been given to research that links DDT exposure
to human harm. The latest study by Eskenazi et al.  found a limited,
perhaps transient association between DDT and neurodevelopment in children at
6, 12 and 24 months born to Mexican women who lived in California following
exposure to agricultural uses of DDT in Mexico. The findings, based on a
small sample population in one location, prompted the researchers to recommend
that countries considering the use of DDT in malaria control should "weigh its
benefit in eradicating malaria against the negative associations" found in
their study. Africa Fighting Malaria rejects this conclusion and finds it
both irresponsible and misleading.
During WWII, soldiers and civilians were covered in DDT to protect them from
lice-born typhus, a strategy which rapidly brought epidemics under control. DDT
was also used to control malarial mosquitoes in the Pacific theatre of war
where it was sprayed on tents and housing. Due to these resounding successes,
DDT was employed widely for malaria control after 1945 through indoor residual
spraying (IRS) programs. In IRS programs, DDT is sprayed in tiny quantities on
the inside walls of houses where it protects residents from mosquito bites for
up to a year by repelling the insects and killing the few that enter the home.
This limited, indoor spraying has saved millions of people from malaria. The
use of DDT in this way is entirely different to the widespread and
indiscriminate spraying of DDT in agriculture, which is now outlawed.
The research by Eskenazi et al. is the latest in a long line of studies that
have attempted to find associations between DDT and its metabolite DDE and harm
to human health. In the past several decades, innumerable studies have
examined DDT's toxicity and claimed "links" between DDT and human cancers,
reduced maternal lactation, pre-term births, low birth weight and endocrine
disruption. The overwhelming majority of these studies has not been
successfully replicated and ultimately failed to demonstrate any actual human
harm. DDT is known to be minimally toxic to humans, and is classified as a
"possible human carcinogen" – along with coffee, beer, peanut butter and a host
of everyday comestibles – by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
DDT is exempted for public health use in the Stockholm Treaty on Persistent
Allegations that maternal lactation is affected by DDT have little substance
and seem contradicted by Eskenazi's research. Equally the claims that DDT
causes pre-term births and endocrine disruption were not confirmed by
Eskenazi's research. Moreover, in spite of the flurry of media activity
surrounding this study, the real-world implications for the current use of DDT
are very limited.
Richard Tren, Director of Africa Fighting Malaria notes, "These studies amount
to little more than momentary scare stories designed to direct popular
attention to unknown, hypothetical risks from DDT and to ignore the
considerable and ongoing benefits of using DDT in malaria control in
conjunction with mosquito nets and effective drugs. The findings of Eskenazi
et al. are neither conclusive nor relevant to the use of DDT with IRS programs
for malaria control."
DDT has saved millions of lives from malaria and continues to protect millions
more from a disease that causes pain, suffering, childhood impairment, economic
loss ($12 billion annually on the African continent) and the deaths of over a
million people globally each year. This continued failure to balance the real
risks that children in malarial areas face with hypothetical risks from DDT
reveals a startling lack of scientific integrity, as well as ill-conceived
ideas about the economics of public health policy. The media coverage of this
singular, un-replicated study begs the question of how many more children and
pregnant women will die from a preventable disease as a result of yet another
unconfirmed scare story?
Africa Fighting Malaria welcomes research and studies that help us to
understand DDT better. However, AFM urges malaria control programs, malaria
scientists and public health experts to base anti-malaria interventions on
sound science and scientific evidence. Limited, un-replicated studies should
have no place in decision making on DDT.
*Please find attached a fact sheet about DDT and human health for your
reference.* [FROM MODERATOR: THE LIST HAS BEEN REMOVED TO KEEP THE MESSAGE TO A
REASONABLE LENGTHEN. YOU CAN REQUEST IT FROM THE AUTHORS LISTED BELOW]
Richard Tren Philip Coticelli
+1 202 223 3298 +1 202 223 3519
+1 202 420 1837 (cell) +1 301 801 5801 (cell)