Did we throw away the best weapon against malaria in the mid-1960’s? The New Scientist has an article on how, having nearly eradicated malaria betweeb 1958 and 1963, funds for the eradication were stopped one year earlier than would have been necessary to finish the job. Malaria today kills nearly as many people each year as Aids – around 2 million. The problem was that small amounts of DDT were used to spray house walls to repel and kill mosquitos. In 1962 Silent Spring was published by Rachel Carson, arguing that DDT should be banned because of the danger to wildlife if it was sprayed in large quantities on fields. As a result, the use of DDT was banned worldwide and malaria has come back in nearly all those areas where it had been eradicated. In 2006 the WHO made a U-turn and approved the use DDT again; incidence of malaria has started falling in those countries which have resumed spraying inside homes:
It seems millions of lives have been lost because health experts threw away their best weapon. Are environmentalists to blame? There is no doubt that DDT was misused as an agricultural pesticide and seriously damaged wildlife. In that sense Carson was right. But regulators did not recognise that spraying indoors was different. And an environmental outcry against DDT helped to ensure that the early fears about its effect on human health became entrenched dogma long after they had been proved unfounded.