Reintroducing dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane(DDT) in Ghana?

Wed, 26 Sep 2007 Source: Okpara, Ikenna Goodyear

There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings...Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change...There was a strange stillness...The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of scores of bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh. … Rachel Carson,

Foremost environment activist painting a picture about what might happen to our world if we continued indiscriminately bombarding the environment with chemical pesticides

The crux, the fulcrum over which the argument [for the control in the use of insecticide DDT] chiefly rests, is that Miss Rachel Carson [the proponent for the control in the use of DDT pesticide] maintains that the balance of nature is a major force in the survival of man, whereas the modern chemist, the modern biologist and scientist, believes that man is steadily controlling nature. …Robert White Stevens,

An American Biochemist commenting on the use of chemical pesticides

After the Second World War, the vast shortage of food made the discovery of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (simply known as DDT) an “agricultural miracle”, which helped to boost agricultural production by killing crop-eating insects. The world indeed benefited from this insecticide in terms of food on the table of many, no wonder the insecticide discoverer, Paul Hermann Müller was awarded the 1948 Nobel Price for Physiology. Beyond the agricultural miracle, DDT was used as an effective mosquito killer by the Allies soldiers during the same war. It really proved very useful in the control of mosquito-causative malaria.

Malaria has been a major threat to the economy of developing countries necessitating the World Health Organization (WHO) to intensify its Roll Back Malaria program in 1998. In fact, the African Regional Roll Back Malaria was convened in Nigeria in 2000 on the outset of the Nigeria’s nascent democracy. The Roll Back Malaria program aims to intensify monitoring, prevention, and treatment efforts, with the ultimate objective being the development of an antimalarial vaccine.

Unfortunately, the very things that made DDT an agricultural miracle also made it harmful to the environment: it is a broad-spectrum insecticide, relatively cheap, easy to manufacture and they stay in the environment a very long time. Environment activist Rachel Carson commenting on why she investigated the use of chemical pesticides said: “the more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important". On the national front, let us sample a case study on the impact o organochlorines, which DDT is a component of: In a recent paper presented by Mr. Kofi Asamoah and Professor James Ephraim (aimed at determining the levels of persistent organic pollutants [POPs] in some environmental samples in Kumasi, Ashanti region). They found out that the total organic content of the soil samples from the 20 functional transformer sites analyzed yielded a minimum a mean of 1.221% and a median of 1.198%. For some samples of transformer oil samples analyzed, it was found out that PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) 118 and PCB 138 had ranges of <0.2923 ugg-1 to 528.4401 ugg-1 and a median value of <0.2887 ugg-1. If such figures are obtainable for a less-industrial Kumasi, what can be said of Accra industrial areas and other industrial areas? Whereupon can we say for Ghana’s compliance with the “1972 UN Stockholm Convention on Human Environment”, which the Ghanaian government ratified?

Furthermore, I want to emphatically state the recommendation of the Ghana Science Association (GSA) on this issue at their just concluded conference: “In this regard, the recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reintroduce DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) insecticide in some developing countries, including Ghana, for the control of mosquitoes in an attempt to combat resurging malaria, should be critically assessed. DDT has been banned worldwide because of its serious effect on human health and the environment. GSA is ready to assist in this effort.” In any case, if we find it a necessary good to reintroduce DDT in Ghana for whatever miracle we intend to see; then we must form a “National Scientific Advisory Committee” to critically assess the reintroduction process just as President John F. Kennedy’s Scientific Advisory Committee did to investigate the Silent Spring report on DDT. Additionally, I would like to state emphatically that the scientific advisory committee I advocate should not mimic a “Knowledge-dependency Syndrome” of what has traditionally-established would happen or what is called “global knowledge”. There should be well grounded research involving field testing, investigation, etc. in order to ascertain the overall impact of DDT within the Ghanaian environment. Government, policymakers and decision makers, over to you.

About the Author:
Okpara Ikenna Goodyear is an environmental activist and also the administrator of THE INSIGHT FOUNDATION (P.O.BOX 9571, KUMASI, GHANA).
Contact Addresses:
E-mail: goodmenergy@yahoo.com
Phone number: +233-24-3463287

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Okpara, Ikenna Goodyear