Worldwide more than 2,700 people will die today because of a bureaucratic regulation instituted during the Nixon administration in 1972. The same number died yesterday and will again tomorrow, in an ever-growing tally of victims of that catastrophic policy. The regulation imposed by Nixon’s newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned DDT, an insecticide that had until then saved the lives of countless U.S. citizens. Leaders in Europe and the United Nations followed suit in a frenzy of misguided environmental zeal and bloodthirsty population control fervor.
“European nations and the United States used insecticides to rid themselves of disease and then pulled up the ladder, denying Africans, Asians and Latin Americans the benefits of those same insecticides,” explain Dr. Donald Roberts and Richard Tren in their 2010 exposé, The Excellent Powder: DDT’s Political and Scientific History. Wealthy nations merit this accusation because before the advent of DDT, parasitic diseases like malaria, typhus, and yellow fever had plagued their own shores for centuries. These infections are known as vector-borne diseases because insects (i.e., vectors) carry disease-causing parasites from person to person.
When DDT first came into use as a pesticide, many called it miraculous, which was hardly an exaggeration considered in perspective. Until then, yellow fever claimed so many lives it was known in the United States as the “Scourge of the South.” The French abandoned efforts in the 1880s to construct the Panama Canal because malaria killed so many workers. Typhus, the disease that took the life of diarist Anne Frank, was once feared as deadlier than any weapon of war in Europe. Yet in a period of three weeks in 1943, DDT wiped out one of history’s deadliest typhus outbreaks in Naples, Italy. In fact DDT’s effectiveness has made all these disease names as antiquated to our ears as scurvy and the plague.
Not so for unfortunates in developing countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), globally malaria kills approximately one million people every year, more than any other parasitic infection. Most victims are young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Names like typhus, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, dengue fever, and bancroftian filariasis are likewise too familiar to hundreds of thousands of those affected in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
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