Acton Institute Powerblog

Mulling over Malaria

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Kofi Akosah in Accra, Ghana, writes in the latest Campaign for Fighting Diseases newsletter about the prospects for the use of DDT in fighting malaria in his home country. He first describes the devastation that the disease wreaks: “More than 17 million of Ghana’s 20 million people are infected by malaria every year, costing the nation a colossal 850 million cedis (US$94 million) for treatment alone.”

He continues, “Those infected by malaria are in and out of hospital and unable to work. Malaria takes an especially heavy toll on farmers. Swarms of mosquitoes make it impossible for farmers and their families to sleep indoors especially, during the rainy seasons when they are forced to sleep outdoors around bonfires.”

Akosah blames in large part the regulations and methods used by the World Health Organization, which he says have “advocated the use of insecticide-treated bednets in vector control, almost to the exclusion of other proven measures.” One such measure that the WHO has decided to reintroduce in limited use, is “Indoor Residual Spraying, which involves spraying the interior walls of dwellings with a small amount of DDT. This acts as an irritant to the mosquitoes, which prevents them from coming in the house in the first place. Those that do make it inside are quickly repelled outside.”

One of the reasons that DDT had been excluded from WHO treatments against malaria was the havoc that the use of the chemical caused nearly fifty years ago. As Chuck Colson writes, the WHO “sprayed the people’s thatch-roofed huts with DDT—and set in motion a life-and-death illustration of the importance of respecting the natural order.”

He says that the unintended consequences of the application of DDT to the huts followed after the mosquitos had been killed: “The pesticide killed the mosquitoes, but it also killed a parasitic wasp that kept thatch-eating caterpillars under control. The result? People’s roofs began caving in.”

“And then things really got bad,” Colson continues. “The local geckos feasted on the toxic mosquitoes—and got sick. Cats gorged on sick geckos—and dropped dead. And then, with no cats, the rats began running wild, threatening the people with deadly bubonic plague.” All this points to the dangers of the unintended consequences of any policy initiative, but especially one that involves the alteration of the natural environment.

The way to deal with the reality Colson describes, however, is not necessarily to abandon the use of DDT altogether, but to learn from the mistakes of the past. This is why current advocates of the use of DDT emphasize that it is indoor spraying that is the legitimate use of the chemical.

The statement of the Kill Malarial Mosquitos NOW! coalition (PDF) states vehemently that it is in favor “only for indoor residual spraying (which results in zero-to-negligible external environmental residue) – and not for aerial or any other form of outdoor application.”

For more on the coalition, see this entry from the PowerBlog, “Add DDT to the Malaria-Fighting Arsenal.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Philip Stevens

    Please can you fix the broken link to the Campaign for Fighting Diseases? It should be


    Philip Stevens,

  • How to kill pests including Mosquitoes without killing yourself or the earth……

    There are about 50,000,000 insect species on earth – we have named about 1,000,000 and there are only about 1,000 pest species – of which over 50% of the pests are already resistant to dangerous, synthetic pesticides. We lose about 25,000 to 50,000 species of insects, plants and animals every year due to “man’s footprint”. But, after poisoning the entire world for over 60 years with dangerous pesticide POISONS we have not controlled much less eliminated even one pest species and every year we use/misuse more and more pesticide POISONS to try to “keep up”! Even so we lose more and more to the pests every year.

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    The 5th Edition of Truman’s Scientific Guide to Pest Control Operations described “The Ideal Pesticide”. “Ideally any pesticide will act rapidly on pests, yet be completely harmless to people, domestic animals, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment. Its residues would only last as long as was necessary to create the desired effect, usually for very short periods. It would also be inexpensive and readily available in necessary quantities, chemically stable (before application), non-flammable, and otherwise safe to use around homes or industrial sites. It would be easily prepared and applied, non-corrosive and non-staining, and it would have no undesirable odor. Unfortunately, no such (synthetic) pesticide exists.” Purdue University and Advanstar Communications (Pest Control Magazine) worked on this 1997 Pest Control Manual, but they were, obviously, still unaware that I had begun patenting and using and field testing the ideal or perfect (pesticide) or Pestisafe® based on natural pest control. In addition to being on the (perfect or ideal pesticide poison descriptive) list, enzyme and surfactant products, e.g., Lice R Gone®, will never create any pest resistance problems and is truly the “perfect or ideal pesticide” as the entire compound contains only ingredients that are considered to be food-grade or non-toxic or GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) and all of these ingredients are active only as long as they are liquid and can be used virtually everywhere, even when people are sick, under 1, over 60, pregnant and/or chemically sensitive to control even pesticide-resistant pests. Most insects die in about 6 seconds; ticks take about 2 minutes to be safely and effectively destroyed. In addition this patented process of using enzymes and surfactants to control pest problems can be diluted/applied in such a way that only the pest species are killed leaving the beneficial species alive! Part of the science behind the invention and/or patented process is that maggots produce enzymes to help soften up their food so they can eat it. Insectivore plants produce and also use protease enzymes to digest their insect prey. Bacteria also use enzymes to break down dead organic cell walls. Spiders and scorpions produce and inject protease enzymes to predigest their prey and all molting insects produce a small amount of protease enzyme to serve as a chemical “zipper” so they can split open the back of their exoskeletons when they molt and emerge in order to increase their size. Without this protease enzyme all molting insects would be trapped inside their own exoskeletons and be crushed to death by their own growth. Therefore, there is no possibility that any insect or arachnid pest can ever develop a resistance to this USA patented process with 77 claims of using enzymes/surfactants to control pest problems. Please note that I already have a patent pending in the USA to increase the number of claims. The following URL contains all of the approved patent information and also explains some of the processes: .

    Simply by adding another non-volatile item to the “Ideal Pesticide” will not only make “it” the safest and most effective knockdown product on the market today, but this new formula will also be the safest, most effective and longest lasting residual pest control product on the market today.This improved formula will still be basically harmless to everything but the (even resistant) bugs! .

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    Respectfully, Stephen L. Tvedten, 2530 Hayes Street, Marne, Michigan 49435, 1-616-677-1418
    Websites: , , ,

    “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” – Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader

  • John

    DDT is safe. The tests they used were totally unrealistic. The human equivalent ingestion rates would be like ten thousand quarts of juice everyday and the such. DDT saved more lives than any other invention of mankind. It was also inexpensive till all the bans. Your concern about POISONS is ridiculous and is based on the same hysteria that got DDT banned in the first place.

  • It seems Mr. Tvedten is not a fan of Pests, yet many may consider him a pest themselves when you consider the amount his apparent issue with comment SPAM.

    If you visit his website you can email him and ask what non-toxic pest control measure he would recommend to use on annoyances like himself.