Senator Seeks DDT Use in Fight Against Encephalitis
On September 24, 2001, Louisiana State Senator Noble Ellington (D-Winnsboro) suggested the state pursue using the banned pesticide DDT to combat an outbreak of encephalitis that has claimed three lives in north Louisiana. According to the Capitol News Bureau, the senator urged Louisiana health officials to ask federal environmental officials about getting a waiver to use DDT against encephalitis-bearing mosquitoes on a limited basis.
Louisiana State Assistant Secretary of Public Health Madeline contacted the Environmental Protection Agency about Ellington's request. EPA officials told her there are better, legal alternatives to DDT, including chemicals already being used in north Louisiana.
Although there is a loophole that allows for special cases uses of DDT, it has not been used legally in the U.S. since it was banned in 1972.
DDT was banned in the United States because of its devastating effects on fish and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that DDT, and its metabolites DDE and DDD, are probable human carcinogens. DDT was identified by Rachel Carson as being a potent reproductive toxin in birds in her pioneering environmental book Silent Spring published in 1962. In fact, bald eagle and the brown pelican were nearly driven to extinction before the banning of DDT in the U.S. in 1972 brought their numbers back. Recent studies have shown reproductive problems linked to DDT exposure in humans.
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