Alternatives to DDT on International Radar
Meeting by UNEP-Linked Stockholm Convention to Address Issues Surrounding Controversial Pesticide
November 2008, Geneva/Nairobi - Boosting cost effective and environmentally-friendly alternatives to the malaria-controlling chemical DDT will be high on the international agenda when delegates meet in early November.
Countries, industry, research institutes and non governmental organizations will review an interim report aimed at setting up a global partnership on alternatives to DDT and ways in which these can be distributed to countries and communities at risk.
DDT is one of 12 substances controlled under the Stockholm Convention- a treaty designed to control and eliminate persistent organic pollutants or POPs.
The chemical can be effective at controlling the mosquitoes that carry the deadly malarial parasite. But experts are concerned that DDT and its break-down products can have a damaging effect on the wider environment including human health.
Countries are permitted under the Stockholm Convention to obtain exemptions allowing them to use DDT to treat the inside walls of houses to kill the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite to humans.
But the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which hosts the Convention’s secretariat, is concerned that DDT remains an old chemical and that safer alternatives need to be promoted giving governments greater choice.
Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said:” We are trapped in something of a chicken and egg situation. DDT works and so countries seek, quite understandably, exemptions to continue its use in order to save lives even though the wider impacts may be deleterious. Yet this also gives few incentives to governments and industry to develop and introduce more environmentally-friendly alternatives”.
“What we need is scientifically robust and economically defensible choices and signals that alternatives are available that reflect the health and sustainability demands of the 21st century-signals too that research and development towards even more superior compounds will be welcomed and encouraged by the international community. DDT is an old substance, there has to be a better way. We need to build the confidence of governments and malaria-stricken communities to invest in genuine alternatives that can be deployed straight away so that DDT becomes a weapon of last resort,” he added.
Around 80 high level representatives from 26 Governments, industry, research and non-Governmental organizations are meeting in Geneva to evaluate the global partnership on alternatives.
The review of the interim report will address how to fill numerous information gaps on mosquito vector control, increasing capacity in malaria endemic countries to employ alternative methods, developing new formulations of pesticides and researching new non-chemical alternatives.
These issues will be considered in the context of the urgent need to reduce the malaria burden, especially in Africa, and to minimize and ultimately eliminate the use of DDT for vector control.
Donald Cooper, Executive Secretary of the Stockholm Convention Secretariat said: “We need to win this fight on all fronts. DDT affects human health and the environment in places far away from where it is used because this chemical is transported through the air and deposited in colder northern climates.
DDT accumulates and persists in fatty tissues of humans and animals and is known to cause long term adverse effects, while malaria continues to kill over one million children and adults per year mainly in Africa. With a united front, we can overcome both these scourges in the most intelligent way possible,” he added.
The Stockholm Convention is ratified by 160 countries. DDT is one of the twelve chemicals listed as a persistent organic pollutant under the Convention.
The conference runs from 3-5 November in Geneva. The Stockholm Convention will use the business plan to promote a global partnership for developing and deploying alternatives to DDT. This plan will be reviewed for endorsement by the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention at its next meeting in May 2009.
Notes to Editors
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