September 14, 1999
DDT Complicates Debate on Pact to Ban Pesticides
By ELIZABETH OLSON
ENEVA, Switzerland -- Negotiators have hammered out a broad
agreement to ban several toxic chemicals and pesticides, but were
unable to decide the fate of DDT because of its use as a cheap
means to combat malaria.
A week of talks here among 115 nations striving for a treaty on
hazardous substances produced a tentative accord that calls for
production of eight chemicals to stop when the treaty takes
Yet to be determined is how to handle DDT, which has divided
environmentalists and public health specialists because of its
usefulness against malaria.
DDT, which poses health risks to wildlife, particularly birds,
and has been found in the milk of nursing mothers, has been banned
in many industrial countries. But more than two dozen countries
rely on the chemical for use against malaria, which kills 1.1
million people each year.
The World Health Organization urged negotiators to weigh DDT's
dangers against its benefits.
The World Wide Fund for Nature, known as World Wildlife Fund in
the United States, countered by issuing a study last week that
concluded that lower-risk pesticides could be equally effective
Environmentalists have now eased their demand for a firm date
for DDT elimination.
In addition to DDT, negotiators failed to make progress on PCBs,
or polychlorinated biphenyls, which are industrial chemicals used
in electric transformers and plastics and as paint additives.
The treaty is expected to be signed in Stockholm in 2001, after
two more negotiating rounds.
Under the new accord, the pesticides to be eliminated without
exemptions are aldrin, endrin, toxaphene. Five others -- the
pesticides chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor and mirex and the
industrial byproduct hexachlorobenzene -- were chosen for
elimination with limited exemptions.