Is a world-wide ban now the only ethical thing to do?
This article first appeared on PlanetInPeril.ca
Did your parents farm In Canada in the years following World War 11, as mine did? If so, little would they have dreamed of the health dangers lurking within the popular chemical, DDT, which they might well have been spraying on their fields.
The product was applied widely (some say indiscriminately) back then to kill bugs that were consuming food crops and forests and spreading human diseases like typhus and malaria. Just as common were assurances from government and industry that "all was well."
But DDT was banned in North America in the 70's after Rachel Carson exposed it, in her book,"Silent Spring," as the culprit in massive die-offs of birds and fish and as a "definite chemical carcinogen."
DDT made a significant resurgence in the early 2000's, however.
That's when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization began promoting programs to control malaria, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. DDT is sprayed indoors and used to treat bed nets to protect people from malaria mosquitoes. It is now estimated up to 5 thousand tonnes are applied yearly.
But the degree to which DDT can harm not only those directly exposed, but their offspring several generations later, has only recently become better understood.
Late last year, a research team at Washington State University (WSU), published a study with a disturbing finding; "The biohazards of DDT are significantly greater than anticipated."
In experiments with laboratory rats, the team discovered that the chemical seems to have the ability to cause serious ailments related to obesity (metabolic disease) in offspring born to parents directly exposed, even though those offspring had no such exposure, themselves. They include diabetes, diseases of the liver, kidney, heart and reproductive organs, male infertility and a shorter life.
DDT thus joins a growing list of substances such as jet fuel and dioxins with the same dubious ability.
So the researchers now believe that, while diet and lifestyle are playing a role, the DDT applied during its heyday, too, is still contributing to the deadly epidemic of obesity that has been sweeping this continent for years.
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