Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

WHO scum - politics over lives

  1. May 23, 2009 #1
    In 2006, after 25 years and 50 million preventable deaths, the World Health Organization reversed course and endorsed widespread use of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria. So much for that. Earlier this month, the U.N. agency quietly reverted to promoting less effective methods for attacking the disease. The result is a victory for politics over public health, and millions of the world's poor will suffer as a result.

    story at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124303288779048569.html
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2009 #2
    Would I be correct in guessing that:
    - WHO does not have the power to perform any action that actually prevents use of DDT,
    - There is some evidence that other methods (such as mosquito-proofing) are more efficient at preventing deaths than DDT,
    - DDT itself is not a long term solution and additional chemicals are already recommended by WHO and used,
    - DDT has complex potential cascading ecological impacts for which the long term cost to humans risk exceeding the immediate benefit,
    - and that WHO has a proven record of evidence-supported work for the good of public health and the poor?
    If so then why the outraged scum-calling?
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2009
  4. May 24, 2009 #3

    MATLABdude

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    DDT is, in some respects, a lot like certain antibiotics, excepting that it bioaccumulates, ends up thinning the egg shells of birds, and has been linked, in chronic and/or acute exposure, to various maladies in people. (Remembering that it bioaccumulates, many people of a certain age in the west have detectable quantities in the fatty tissues of their bodies).

    When it was first introduced, it was a miracle chemical--able to wipe out NEARLY all mosquitoes, and able to nearly single-handedly wipe out malaria in some regions (from the Wikipedia article: 3 million annual cases of malaria in Sri Lanka to just 29):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ddt#Overall_effectiveness_of_DDT_against_malaria

    But just like antibiotics they got overused, or used superfluously (come on, therapeutic doses of antibiotics, even on livestock, and antibiotic soap / lotion / tissues?) Plus that whole bioaccumulation thing (i.e. it builds up in animals, and throughout the ecosystem). Its strategic use (i.e. mass sprayings, supermarket availability, etc.) was responsible for destroying mosquito populations, and drastic disease reduction, and it was everywhere (in varying amounts). Unfortunately, DDT's great success was also it's biggest problem (and I think this dramatic success is also the reason why so many people are still enamoured of it).

    Since mosquitoes usually lay several hundred eggs per pair, those few survivors quickly gave rise to DDT-resistant mosquito populations! WE (or maybe it was WHO), in effect, selected for DDT-resistant mosquitoes! And DDT's effectiveness dropped like a rock. In places (e.g. India) where they've continued strategic use of DDT, it's become completely ineffective (I hesitate to link to the Wikipedia article on such an important point, but the article does provide a link):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT#Mosquito_resistance_to_DDT

    In order to keep on making use of DDT (in spite of its human effects, which are probably not as bad as getting malaria), it has to be used tactically--infrequent indoor spraying, impregnation in mosquito netting and bed clothing (despite being resistant, mosquitoes apparently will still stay away from it). Which is probably slower, more costly, and less dramatic (at least short-term) than, say, spraying it from planes and trucks. And I sure hope that its tactical use is what will result with this reversal (along with commensurate funding).

    You might say WHO is scum for opposing DDT, but you can also vilify them for advocating (and using DDT) and causing DDT-resistant mosquitoes! (Who do you think launched those mass-DDT efforts in the 50s and 60s?) All-around anti-WHO weapon. Unless, like DDT, you use these too often, and people see you're using both sides of the same coin and develop a resistance to it. (This http://www.colbertnation.com/" moment brought to you by DEET)

    EDIT: Strategic and tactical in the above post is applied in the same way as to nuclear weapons:
    Strategic: 200 megaton "Tsar Bomba" fusion bomb
    Tactical: 0.5 kiloton "Davey Crockett" nuclear artillery shell
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: WHO scum - politics over lives
  1. Who's the father? (Replies: 8)

  2. Who was first? (Replies: 3)

  3. Living and Non-living (Replies: 11)

Loading...