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Group calls for worldwide DDT ban

DDT is still used to control mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects in many developing nations   

January 29, 1999
Web posted at: 11:30 AM EST

By Environmental News Network staff

(ENN) -- The World Wildlife Fund Wednesday called for a global ban on the production and use of DDT by 2007. DDT has been banned in North America, but is still used to control mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects in many developing nations.

WWF said new research shows that DDT sprays -- even when used indoors -- leak significant levels of DDT into the environment and pose hazards to both human health and wildlife.

The environmental group released its new report as representatives from more than 100 nations gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss whether to recommend a global ban on 12 of the most toxic chemicals, including DDT.

In the report, "Hazards and Exposures Associated with DDT and Synthetic Pyrethroids Used for Vector Control," WWF summarizes current research on DDT and its most popular alternative, synthetic pyrethroids. The report finds DDT can cause damage to the developing brain leading to hypersensitivity, behavioral abnormalities and reduced neural signal transmission, and suppression of the immune system resulting in slower response to infections.

WWF said research in Mexico and South Africa showed that the higher the levels of DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) in human mothers, the shorter the time they were able to breast feed.

The report notes that most of the millions of tons of DDT that have been produced in the past remain in soil and continue to be redistributed throughout the environment. When released into the atmosphere, DDT travels thousands of miles to colder areas where it returns to Earth and builds up in body fat of wildlife and humans.

So, DDT can be sprayed in a village in Africa and end up in the fat of polar bears in the Arctic, says WWF.

"DDT is such a potent chemical that as long as it is used anywhere in the world, nobody is safe," said Clifton Curtis, director of the WWF Global Toxics Initiative.

"There is no longer a question about whether DDT should be banned, only how soon it can happen while still ensuring developing countries access to safe, affordable alternative malaria controls," Curtis said.

The 12 organic pollutants the United Nations is trying to control are aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, dioxins, endrin, furans, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, PCBs and toxaphene.

Environmentalists and the chemical industry are at odds over whether to place a total ban on the 12 chemicals.

For more information, contact Lee Poston in Nairobi, +254 72510 777.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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