The world’s mosquito population is on the rise, and as the number of cases increases, scientists are wondering whether to limit the use of insecticides, which have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a draft resolution on Thursday calling for the introduction of limits on the use and sale of insecticide-treated bed nets in developed countries, as well as a ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoids.
A report by the University of California at Davis and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said that in some countries, neonic-treated nets are the single most important tool to limit mosquito populations.
“Neonic- treated nets, which are being introduced for the first time in countries such as China, are killing thousands of mosquito larvae and preventing the emergence of new mosquitoes,” said Paul Ehrlich, a senior scientist at the University’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Security (IFAS), who authored the UNEP report.
The UNEP study, which was based on a survey of nearly 100,000 households in more than 20 countries, found that in the first two years of use, there was a reduction in the number and size of larvae in some areas.
It also found that net use in countries with high population density decreased.
“In countries where net use is limited, net-treated net use has decreased by an average of 20% and net-control use by an estimated 8.8%, with net-induced mortality rates of more than one-third,” the UN report said.
Although the UN has been working for years to curb insecticide use in developing countries, the issue has come to the fore again after a series of devastating droughts hit the region last year.
Neonicotinoid use is the most widely used insecticide on the planet, but its impact on the world’s mosquitoes is being monitored.
Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that neonic treatments are responsible for the deaths of about one million mosquitoes, including those that were killed by the virus.
China is one of the countries where neonic use has increased, although its numbers have been falling.
A Chinese government survey of 3,000 farmers found that a quarter had used neonic treatment.
In a separate survey, conducted by UNEP, 80% of farmers surveyed in Vietnam said they had used net treatment to control mosquito populations in the past year.
The survey found that more than half of the farmers said they would start using net again in 2019.
Another UN report published on Thursday found that the amount of neontoxin used in farming rose by 60% between 2015 and 2017.
Scientists have been working hard to reduce the impact of neonons on insect populations, and the UN and WHO have been encouraging countries to adopt policies to limit their use.
But the UN is not the only group working to limit use of the insecticide, which has caused hundreds more deaths around an average every year since the 1970s.
New Zealand is one country that has started to curb neonic usage, following a report by WHO in 2016 that warned that widespread use of net nets had contributed to the deaths from malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was in China last month to attend the World Health Assembly, said on Thursday that countries need to find a solution to the problem of neonics, which is being blamed for millions of deaths.
“We are working with the countries of China, Vietnam, and India to get an international agreement on the regulation of neons and we are ready to do more to reduce their impact on public health,” Guterre said.
The UN also said it is urging countries to implement policies to reduce neonic levels in agricultural crops.
More than 40 countries around the globe are in discussions about neonic protection.