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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note

Air Date: Week of

Women tested in parts of South Africa, where DDT is used to fight malaria, showed levels of residue of the pesticide up to 77 times higher than safely allowed. Allison Smith reports.


GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Bruce Gellerman, and coming up: more big profits for big oil. So, where’s all the money going? First, this note on emerging science from Allison Smith.

SMITH: A new study from South Africa shows women there have an average of 12 times the maximum residue limit of DDT in their bodies. The most extreme case exceeded the tolerable limit by 77 times. Research has linked DDT to infant mortality due to preterm births and shortened lactation periods.

Scientists have been studying DDT residue in childbearing women since the 1980’s. DDT was outlawed in the United States as an agricultural insecticide in 1972, but it is still used in developing countries as a cheap, efficient way to control pests. It enters the body through food and water sources, inhalation during farm work, and most notably by way of mosquito insecticide used to prevent malaria. Malaria kills more than a million people in Africa each year.

International initiatives in the early ‘90’s aimed to find alternatives to DDT. But an epidemic outbreak of malaria in 1995 forced South Africa to reintroduce DDT as a blanket defense against new resistant strains of the virus.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Allison Smith.



The Independent’s article on the study


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