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Poisoning of Millions of Indians-a National Shame

Chaitanya Davé

During our recent travel to the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, we came across a shocking truth. While we were walking in the town of Zero (elevation 5,577 feet), we came across houses after houses with black letter signs: DDT, 7/14/15. Somewhat surprised, I asked our local guide what this sign meant. As I had suspected, he told me that DDT was sprayed in these houses on July 14, 2015. I asked him if they sprayed all the houses and how many times? He said every house is sprayed by the government twice a year in whole of Zero and all other parts of Arunachal Pradesh. Then a few days later, we were in Darjeeling and I asked my guide the same question and he too said that DDT is sprayed twice a year in every house in West Bengal. Now the picture was clear: DDT is being sprayed in most of the regions of India once or twice a year to eliminate mosquitos. As we were growing up--and I am sure this is the same experience of everyone who grew up in India—DDT was sprayed every year in our house, especially in the bathrooms and toilets and in the backyard. Like everyone, all of us have absorbed DDT while growing up in India. While the whole of Europe, America and other developed countries have banned DDT use, it is still being widely in India, other parts of Asia and in Africa.

Houses in Zero, Arunachal Pradesh


Well, let me give some information on DDT pesticide: 

1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane or commonly known as DDT is an organochlorine insecticide that was first synthesized in 1874. DDT is a pesticide that was used very successfully to control the insect population especially the mosquito population prevalent all over the world. It is a persistent organic pollutant.

Farmers used DDT in a variety of food crops in the United States and worldwide. It was also used in buildings for pest control. The reason why it was used so widely was because not only it is effective, but it is also relatively inexpensive to manufacture and lasts a long time in the environment.

Rachel Carson, an environmentalist, came out with her ground breaking book called “Silent Spring” in 1962. She used DDT to tell the broader story of the disastrous consequences of the overuse of insecticides and raised enough concern from her testimony before the Congress. This triggered the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Following her testimony, President Kennedy convened a committee to review the evidence Carson had presented. By 1972, DDT was banned in the United States except in the case of public health emergency. But its manufacture is still legal in the country as long as it is exported for use by the developing nations.

When tested on animals, DDT is found to cause chronic effects on the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and immune system. DDT is also found to be carcinogenic, causing cancers when tested on animals. It is found to cause disruptions in the endocrine (hormonal) systems of the animals. Also, is found to cause reduced fetal weight or even sterility in some animals.

DDT’s carcinogenicity is equivocal. It has been shown to cause increased tumor production (mainly in liver and lungs) in test animals such as rats, mice and hamsters in some studies. In one study, increased connection was found between humans and pancreatic cancers. Also on humans, studies have revealed that DDT can adversely affect the nervous system, liver and the kidney.

The most amazing thing is that DDT gets accumulated in humans and animals in the fatty tissues of the body. Its concentration keeps increasing in the body and without doubt it will have significantly adverse effect on the bodies of humans and animals.

The evidence on DDT’s effect on humans has continued to mount over the years. The recent studies are showing harm even at very low levels of exposure. Studies show a range of human health effects connected with DDT and its breakdown product, DDE:

  • Breast and Pancreatic cancers & leukemia
  • male infertility
  • miscarriages & low birth weight
  • developmental delay
  • nervous system & liver damage

No wonder, all the developed countries have banned the use of DDT in their countries, especially after the US ban. Unfortunately, DDT is widely used in Africa and Asia including India. India is just one of the three countries still manufacturing DDT and is the largest user of it. The other two countries are China and North Korea. China uses a small quantity of DDT for domestic spraying while exports the rest to other countries.

We should learn from Mexico and Vietnam who successfully carried out a range of programs to reduce or eradicate malaria from their countries with measures other than DDT spraying. Both these countries don’t use DDT anymore since last several years as PAN (Pesticide Action Network) reports.

India desperately needs to develop and pursue other non-chemical methods to control malaria. They include protective nets, larvae eating fish and elimination of mosquito breeding sites such as stagnant waters and open gutters. An addition of alkaline salts to stagnant waters and gutters could be useful but needs further research. Mass production of cotton bed-nets should be made available to the masses at very low cost. Combined with other prevention and treatment strategies, these bed-nets can prevent half of all the deaths from malaria. Like what Vietnam did, there are drugs that can be freely distributed to the poor which gives protection against malaria.

With a huge pool of biologists and other scientists, India can devise ways to eliminate the malaria deaths from the country. Poisoning of millions of Indians by DDT spray is not the solution. I urge our popular Prime Minister Shri Narendrabhai Modi to launch a program to combat this menace by implementing other alternatives and save millions of Indians from being poisoned.

Chaitanya Davé, California, USA

Chaitanya, born in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India, is an author, the Founder of Pragati Foundation, an Industrialist, a social activist, a highly progressive individual and an environmentalist; lives with his wife Amita in California, USA.

Attended college at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico and graduated with B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1969. Started his own company in 1980 manufacturing metal finishing chemical products. The company is still running successfully.

He is founder/president of a non-profit charity organization named ‘Pragati’, based in Southern California and Hemubhai Rural Development Foundation based in India. The foundation has done rural developmental work in villages in India since 1993. He has travelled extensively all over the world and runs a non-profit rural development foundation. 

Chaitanya Dave with Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat on December 2013 became the prime minister of India in May 2014

Chaitanya Dave with Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat on December 2013  (Narendra Modi became the prime minister of India in May 2014)

On December 2013, Chaitanya Dave met in person with the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendrabhai Modi, about six months before he became the prime minister of the largest democracy in the world, India.

Early on Chaitanya Dave learned that only through good education and focused hard work can one come up in life. That is what he did developing his successful metal finishing company against all odds and very little money, in Los Angeles in 1980. He learned that there is no substitute for hard work. He derived these and other principles from great men like Mahatma Gandhiji and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Chaitanya Davé has authored three books:

  1. CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: A Shocking Record of US Crimes since 1776 (Nov. 2007)
  2. COLLAPSE: Civilization on the Brink (June 2010), and 
  3. MONUMENTAL SHIFT: Creating a New Economy with Genuine Democracy. (2016)

Wife: 
Amita Dave has M.S in education from Pune University and also a Master’s degree in Special Education in the USA. She has been a teacher, administrator and advisor in the field of Special Education with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Though retired now, she continues to take assignments in her field.

Sons:

  1. Maurya Dave, an electrical engineer and the CEO of Surfin Chemical Corp., Los Angeles, CA, USA
  2. Dr Aditya Dave, a Veterinarian, currently doing his residency at Minnesota State University, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Favourite quotes:

  • “Nobody can make you unhappy without your permission” —Mahatma Gandhi
  • "I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have it." -- Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. president

Chaitanya Dave’s motto in life:
Work hard, read a lot, learn a lot, and enjoy your life with your family and friends while helping others too.

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