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WHO Urges Use of DDT in Africa

The Pesticide Action Network North America in San Francisco, however, opposes its use because it believes that DDT could cause premature birth and developmental delay in children, said spokeswoman Stephenie Hendricks.

"When there are less toxic means to combat malaria, why would people want to inflict these additional health problems with a chemical they are presenting as a silver bullet, which it isn't?" she said.

Many countries use other chemicals, primarily pyretheroids, in indoor spraying. But they are generally less potent than DDT and do not last as long.

The U.S. Agency for International Development supports indoor spraying in Angola, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. Non-DDT compounds are used primarily, although DDT is being used in Zambia and on the island of Zanzibar. In Zanzibar, about 85 percent of households agree to its use, said Tim Ziemer, a retired admiral who is the coordinator of the President's Malaria Initiative, created by the Bush administration last year.

Numerous countries in southern Africa use DDT, but the compound is generally not used in central and west Africa, which have more intense malaria transmission, said Shiva Murugasampillay, a physician at WHO in Geneva.

DDT was the chief chemical villain of Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," whose publication in 1962 helped nurture the modern environmental movement. The chemical was banned in the United States in 1972, and its use worldwide fell steeply after that. It is no longer used in agriculture.

A study in Zambia in 2000 found that when all houses in a neighborhood were sprayed, malaria incidence fell 35 percent compared with years when none was sprayed.

Swaziland and Madagascar each had malaria epidemics after suspending DDT spraying, the latter's outbreak killing more than 100,000 people from 1986 to 1988. Both epidemics were stopped when DDT spraying resumed.

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