During World War II, the insecticide DDT was used successfully to halt a typhus epidemic spread by lice and to control mosquitoes and flies. After World War II, it was used extensively to control agricultural and household pests. Today, DDT may not be used legally in the United States and most other countries. Although DDT has a rather low immediate toxicity to humans and other vertebrates, it becomes concentrated in fatty tissues of the body. In addition, it degrades slowly, remaining toxic in the soil for years after its application. But there has never been any credible evidence that this residue has caused any harm. Even so, DDT has been blamed for the near extinction of bald eagles, whose population has increased greatly since DDT was banned, although evidence tends to point to oil, lead, mercury, stress from noise, and other factors as the likely causes.
In 2010, over 980 people in the United States were infected by and 45 people killed after contracting West Nile virus, which is carried to humans by mosquitoes. CDC director Julie Gerberding called West Nile virus an "emerging, infectious disease epidemic" that could be spread all the way to the Pacific Coast by birds and mosquitoes. Pesticides such as malathion, resmethrin, and sumithrin can be effective in killing mosquitoes but are significantly limited because they do not stay in the environment after spraying. In Mozambique, indoor spraying of DDT has caused malaria rates to drop 88 percent among children.
As an executive for Eartho Chemical Company, you have been asked by Eartho's CEO to study whether Eartho should resume the manufacture of DDT. What would a utilitarian decide? What would a profit maximizer do?