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Pesticides and Global Warming

Working with a broad coalition of environmental and public health groups, the Sierra Club is helping to assure that communities and ecosystems threatened by climate change don't also have to deal with a growing toxics problem. Climate change can make pesticide contamination challenges worse: Under warmer conditions, some pesticides will spread further, more readily contaminate water supplies, and have more acutely toxic effects. If those effects are not controlled, farm towns and wild spaces will face a one-two punch as global warming and pesticide contamination interact to make each problem worse.

The good news is that the US Environmental Protection Agency, responding to a Club-led effort, recognizes the problem and has formed a review team to address it. The EPA is working to evaluate the scientific and regulatory landscape in order to chart a way forward. The Sierra Club will be there to help address these emerging challenges.

Coalition letter
EPA response
Policy suggestions



DDT and Malaria
Sierra Club responds to the World Health Organization's decision to promote DDT to combat malaria in Africa. The Sierra Club says that the World Health Organization should give priority to safer tools for fighting malaria.

Sierra Club's Position on the World Heath Organization's Promotion of Indoor Use of DDT to Control Malaria:

On September 15, 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was giving DDT "a clean bill of health" for use in combatting malaria in Africa. The Sierra Club strongly disagrees with the WHO's denial of the potential health and environmental risks of using DDT. Sierra Club is deeply concerned that WHO's new position statement on "indoor residual spraying" increases the potential for widespread misuse and accidents due to the continued manufacture, storage and applications of DDT.

DDT and its breakdown chemicals are synthetic, persistent global pollutants that have been found in residents of remote areas where DDT has never been used, including Inuit and other Arctic peoples. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies DDT as a possible human carcinogen. The EPA has determined that DDT, DDE, and DDD are probable human carcinogens. Studies have linked widespread reproductive disorders in animals to DDT exposure - including reproductive failure in the American Bald Eagle. Additionally, adverse health effects including reproductive disorders and learning disabilities have been identified in people exposed to DDT.

Malaria kills millions of people in Africa every year. Under closely controlled conditions and as part of a broader, integrated response, Sierra Club agrees that DDT should only be used in accordance with limiting provisions agreed to by more than 150 nations in the Stockholm Convention. Further, many effective non-toxic and less toxic alternatives are available and affordable, such as cleaning mosquito breeding areas, use of treated nets and early malaria detection and treatment programs. Sierra Club believes that DDT should be considered as the option of last resort only, when all feasible non-toxic and less toxic alternatives have been tried and proven ineffective. Sierra Club encourages governments and the WHO to give priority to increasing the informed use and accelerated development of such non-toxic and less toxic alternatives.

West Nile Virus
To prevent the spread of West Nile Virus the Sierra Club recommends a precautionary management approach that does not include the use of adulticide pesticides. We recommend the information provided by Beyond Pesticides.

National Wildlife has developed some advice that involves NOT draining wetlands.

For data on specific pesticides that might be proposed for use consult:
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
PAN - Pesticide Action North America

It is encouraging that even federal agencies such as the CDC and some major cities are taking the precautionary approach, not big spray programs. Consumer Reports (May 2003) has a good article about West Nile and mentions pesticides that cities should not use, even though EPA has approved them for mosquito control.

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