Saturday, September 16, 2006

Will things ever calm down, and AAARGH!

Ok, I rephrase that. It's Saturday morning and in fact, I have nothing to do. Everyone's busy...It has been such a weird summer, with friends getting divorced, moving out of boyfriends' houses, getting new jobs, taking care of baby...To tell the truth, it's been fairly boring. Now, I don't want to complain, but I have to say, I'm getting pretty tired of entertaining myself and the cats. I'm actually thinking of joining the local running and hiking clubs. They do say that they are effective means of meeting people. But enough of feeling sorry for myself. The point is, it's a grey Saturday, and I finally have time to blog again.

Work has been crazy busy, and I'm pleased to say, I survived h-e-double hockeysticks week: four projects, all with competing deadlines, all of which were due this week. Craziness. But I survived, and I'm looking forward to November, where I can actually plan out my critical path and sit down with my boss to put together some goals and achievables, rather than just reacting to the next crisis and deadline.

As for the love life, well, things with e-harmony dude didn't really work out. It's amazing how 'into' me he seemed, yet he never called or wanted to make plans to get together. The lesson learned: ALWAYS trust your instincts - I didn't have a good feeling about this one, and actually cancelled our first date, but he convinced me out of it. I ended up breaking up with him for exactly the reasons I cancelled our first date. How empowering to actually be the breaker-upper!

So now, the door is wide open for me to explore other possibilities. And who knows what may come of it?

That's about as personal as I'm going to get on my blog. And now, for something completely different:

A friend just sent me this from the BBC site, and I couldn't believe it. What does this mean for Rachel Carson's legacy? I'm going to have to do some serious thinking about the implications of this WHO decision. Just when you think you have things figured out, life throws another twist at you:

WHO backs DDT for malaria control
Malaria, carried by the mosquito, kills more than a million each year The World Health Organization (WHO) has reversed a 30-year policy by endorsing the use of DDT for malaria control.
The chemical is sprayed inside houses to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
DDT has been banned globally for every use except fighting disease because of its environmental impacts and fears for human health.
WHO says there is no health risk, and DDT should rank with bednets and drugs as a tool for combating malaria, which kills more than one million each year.
"The scientific and programmatic evidence clearly supports this reassessment," said Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, WHO assistant director- general for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
DDT presents no health risk when used properly Anarfi Asamoa-Baah "Indoor residual spraying is useful to quickly reduce the number of infections caused by malaria-carrying mosquitoes; it has proven to be just as cost effective as other malaria prevention measures, and DDT presents no health risk when used properly."
Teams of sprayers typically visit endemic areas once a year, spraying the chemical on the inside walls of houses; mosquitoes landing there absorb it and die.
Global ban
A potent insecticide, DDT fell into disrepute with the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring just over 40 years ago.
The book showed that widespread, indiscriminate use of DDT and related compounds was killing wildlife over vast tracts of North America and western Europe.
Spray preparation, BBC
Africa battles over DDT
A number of countries banned it, and in 2004 the global treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) made the prohibition global - except for a clause allowing its manufacture and use in disease control.
Some African countries have continued to use it, though most have either switched to other kinds of insecticide or pursued a strategy of issuing insecticide-impregnated bednets. Some aid agencies have policies of not funding programmes involving DDT.
South Africa was one country that switched, but it had to return to DDT at the beginning of the decade after mosquitoes developed resistance to the substitute compounds.
"Of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved as safe for house spraying, the most effective is DDT," said Arata Kochi, director of the WHO's Global Malaria Programme.
Richard Tren of the pressure group Africa Fighting Malaria has been campaigning for DDT's rehabilitation.
"All development agencies and endemic countries need to act in accordance with WHO's position on the use of DDT for indoor residual spraying," he said.


twitches said...

Interesting article - there is so much going on in the world; I'll feel I'll never be informed of it all!

JuliaandKieran said...

Hey Christine! Blog is looking good! Keep it up - I like to stay updated with what's going on!

pohanginapete said...

Hey C, I read the BBC article also and while it surprised me, it... er, well,... it also didn't surprise me. The problem with DDT arose largely from its "widespread, indiscriminate" use. Unlike most of the related pesticides (chlorinated hydrocarbons), DDT has a low toxicity for mammals (that's us). It does build up in food chains, but if used carefully, its movement out of the house and into the wider environment can be kept to negligible levels.

Similarly, one of its disadvantages is its wide spectrum — it kills a huge range of invertebrates. Again, careful use (e.g., low concentrations sprayed only onto ceilings, where the malarial mosquitoes like to hang out (literally)) can greatly reduce the risk to other invertebrates.

I think it's been argued that careful application will also greatly slow the buildup of resistance, but I'm somewhat sceptical about that claim.

Like most people (I suspect), I'm glad we're well beyond the bad old days of smothering everything in DDT "just in case" pests turned up, and I wish there were better solutions than DDT for malaria. But malaria kills over a million people a year, and careful use of DDT could reduce that, perhaps substantially, probably only temporarily, until the mosquitoes become resistant.

Oh yes, most of those malaria deaths are in Africa. What would happen to all those additional people if malaria were to be brought under control? The world's already having enormous difficulty accepting responsibility for and trying to ameliorate the problems in Africa: let's hope that if DDT does work as effectively as the WHO anticipates, the outcome will be supported by efforts that will be just as effective at ameliorating the current humanitarian crises.

Finally (!), congratulations for making the effort to engage in some "serious thinking about the implications of this WHO decision". Too many of us, faced with these controversies, give up and turn away. Thanks, at least, for thinking.