Wildlife Fund wants world DDT ban
by George Mwangi
|ufficient scientific evidence exists of DDT's danger to humans and animals to justify a global ban on the insecticide, the World Wildlife Fund said in a report Wednesday.
The report was released to coincide with a week-long gathering in Nairobi of delegates from more than 100 nations to negotiate a treaty banning 12 toxic substances, including DDT.
"The report illustrates the persistence and pervasiveness of chemicals such as DDT, which can be sprayed in a village in Africa and end up in the fat of polar bears in the Arctic," the Washington, D.C.-based organization said. The report summarizes current research on DDT and its most popular alternative, synthetic pyrethroids.
The treaty would ban the so-called "dirty dozen" toxic chemicals, called persistent organic pollutants, which include DDT, dioxin and PCBs. The highly toxic chemicals break down extremely slowly.
"DDT is such a potent chemical that as long as it is used anywhere in the world, nobody is safe," Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's Global Toxic Initiative, told reporters at the headquarters of the U.N. Environment Program outside Nairobi.
Even though DDT is banned in 34 countries and severely restricted in 34 others, it is still endorsed by World Health Organization for use in the control of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
"There is no longer a question about whether to DDT should be banned, only how soon it can happen while still ensuring developing countries access to safe, affordable alternative malaria control," Curtis said.
The report said although WHO recommends the use of DDT indoors, as much as 82 percent of DDT applied indoors escapes outdoors, where it has the potential to damage human health and the environment.
Curtis said recent WWF findings show that malaria-bearing mosquitoes have developed resistance to DDT. Environmentalists and the chemical industry are at odds over whether to place a total ban on the 12 chemicals.
The conference is the second of five scheduled by the United Nations. The first negotiating session in Montreal in 1998 was primarily organizational.