Can malaria be eliminated from the world without causing cancer? Will pesticides such as DDT actually cause cancer? The use of pesticides in the world has caused quite a debate during the last several decades, especially when cancer or malaria are brought into the discussion. Malaria can be eliminated from the world by using synthetic insecticides, but will it cause cancer?
Many scientists and enthusiasts around the world have written the pros and cons of using pesticides to eliminate pests and diseases such as malaria. The topic of cancer usually comes up in the debate. One professor who opposes the use of pesticides explains the many reasons why pesticides are a problem for our world population and the environment (Pimentel, 1987).
First, Pimentel explains that some pesticides increase the number of pests throughout the world while some insects actually reproduce at a greater rate. Second, environmental hazards are created by pesticides, such as bioaccumulation and biomagnifications from using chlorinated insecticide, outbreaks of pests (creating the use of more pesticides), pests developing resistance to pesticides (increasing pesticide use), and runoff into aquatic ecosystems.
Last, humans and animals are poisoned by pesticide use (Pimentel, 1987). If bioaccumulation occurs in the food we eat, shouldn’t we question cancer? Many protestors around the world still question the effects of pesticides such as cancer, especially in the use for eradicating malaria.
The important statistics that Pimentel does discuss is the fact that even though the use of pesticides has greatly increased during the past 40 years, 37% of crops are lost to pests. Further, the percentage of crops lost due to insects has nearly doubled (from about 7% to 13%) since 1940 (Pimentel, 1987).
In contrast, Ray and Guzzo’s (Ray & Guzzo, 1990) arguments defend the use of not only DDT but all pesticides throughout the world. I do find their argument persuasive on one aspect that the use of DDT helped save millions of lives from malaria. In addition, to my knowledge there has been no scientific research that confirms that DDT causes cancer in humans. Ray and Guzzo do not believe that DDT causes cancer.
I do not find their argument to be persuasive when determining if DDT is persistent in the environment. The main reason I do not find their claim believable is because although there is no chemical difference between natural and synthetic (man-made) compounds, they are processed differently. Thus, the reactions and unwanted side effects from the natural environment and mankind, to these synthetic compounds can be detrimental and sometimes lethal. If synthetic compounds are not a problem, then why do so many people around the world have very bad reactions to generic drugs?
This leads up to what I think the truth is about DDT, cancer, malaria and all synthetic compounds: synthetic pesticides are not natural and take months, years, or even decades for the human body or the environment to assimilate completely. Although there is no proof, I also believe that pesticides are causing cancer all over the world.
Ray and Guzzo claim that man needs to step in and provide for the needs of plants, by fertilizing and providing pesticides when needed. This could be dangerous if we are still unaware if pesticides are causing cancer. There are other options available (natural) for pest control. This website offers a great movement in that direction: http://www.rothamsted.bbsrc.ac.uk/Research/Centres/home.php
While Pimentel believes that DDT and all synthetic chemicals (pesticides) are detrimental to the world as a whole, Ray and Guzzo insist that it is not detrimental to the environment and that human life is better off because of it. The question of how to eliminate malaria without causing cancer through the use of pesticides still troubles scientists and researchers around the world.
For other topics by this contributor please see http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/743371/teresa_erwin.html
Authors’ Disclaimer: While every caution has been taken to provide my readers with the most accurate information, please use your discretion before making any decisions based on the information in this article.
Pimentel, D. (1987). Is silent spring behind us? In Pojman, L. & Pojman, P. (Eds), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (pp.531-536). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ray, K.L. & Guzzo, L. (1990). The blessings of pesticides. In Pojman, L. & Pojman, P. (Eds), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (pp.562-567). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Rothamsted Research (2010). An institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. World class science for sustainable land management. http://www.rothamsted.bbsrc.ac.uk/Research/Centres/home.php