Mutare defends use of banned DDT to curb malaria

MUTARE - Mutare City Council (MCC) has defended the indoor use of the banned and deadly DDT to control malaria, arguing it helped in containing the outbreak of the disease.

DDT — a potent pesticide widely famed for control of malaria globally before its widespread ban in the early 1960s due to its cancer causing properties — is still dividing opinion among environmentalists and health professionals.

MCC health director, Simon Mashavave, said communities that accepted the use of the pesticide quickly brought malaria outbreaks under control, while those who did not want their homes sprayed battled the disease for longer.

He said while they appreciated the potential environmental damage the pesticide had, the chemical was an effective control of malaria causing mosquitoes.

“Only the Health ministry is allowed to use DDT and only under close control and tight supervision,” Mashavave said.

“Our products are tested for DDT when we export them to the European market and we cannot afford to make any mistake. The chemical is mixed indoors and any left overs or residues are destroyed,” Mashavave said.

A devastating disease, malaria kills more than 800 000 people every year, the majority of deaths among children in sub-Saharan Africa.

DDT was banned following the publication in 1962 of an apocalyptic book Silent Spring by biologist Rachel Carson’s on the adverse effect of the widespread use of the pesticide as the world was beginning to battle increasing incidences of cancer.

Carson used DDT to tell the broader story of the disastrous consequences of the overuse of insecticides, and raised enough concern from her testimony before Congress to trigger the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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