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DDT: Good Riddance or a Bad Rap - Essay Example

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Abstract DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is a well-known controversial organo-chlorine insecticide. Originally prepared in 1873, its insecticidal properties were discovered later in 1939. It was used extensively worldwide, for the successful elimination of insect pests in agriculture sector and insect vectors (causing malaria and typhus) in public health sector until a debate on its advantages and disadvantages was initiated…
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DDT: Good Riddance or a Bad Rap
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Download file to see previous pages This paper covers the history of DDT, its chemical presentation, current usage, toxic effects on human health and environment, its degradation and its role in control of malaria. This paper reviews malaria control policy formulation regarding DDT use and consequently weighing its detrimental health and environmental effects. Also, it provides a brief description of alternatives to DDT, long term management programs and a pre-requisite organized approach by the concerned authorities to control pests and vectors. Introduction: DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was first synthesized in 1874 by Zeidler. Its insecticidal properties were later discovered by Paul Mueller in 1939, a chemist researching on development of diverse chemicals to deal with agricultural insects, for a Swiss firm Giegy. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology in acknowledgment for his remarkable efforts in 1948 (Fiedler, Borja-Aburto, 2003). By the end of World War I, estimated deaths caused by typhus reached more than 5 million. This caused extensive precautionary measures to avoid epidemics during World War II and civilians and allied troops soldiers in Pacific were sprayed with DDT to combat insect vectors (mosquitoes and lice) predominantly malaria and typhus. Eventually after the war in 1945, DDT was employed as an insecticide for public health purposes, among both military and civilian populations to eliminate insect vectors that cause diseases. Also, it was used widely to control insect pests found on agricultural crops (fruits, vegetables and cotton), live stock production, institutions, homes and gardens. DDT quick success as a pesticide led to its extensive use in US and other developed countries a total of approximately 1,350,000,000 pounds of DDT was used domestically. Its popularity was owed to its cost efficiency, control effectiveness, persistence and versatility. History: Initially, DDT was thought to be an ideal insecticide due to its high toxicity to insects/pests and low toxic effects in human beings. Its high persistent rates were considered a further advantage. However, the scientific community soon started to question its credibility and began research on harmful effects of DDT. During the late 1950s and 1960s, the food and environmental regulatory authorities (principally Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Izaak Walton League) demanded a restriction on use of DDT because of increasing evidence of this pesticide’s declining benefits and toxicological and environmental effects. In particular, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring published in 1962, created awareness about environmental problems associated with DDT in general public. In this book, she discussed in detail the decline of American robin in certain regions due to consumption of earthworms laden with DDT to combat Dutch elm disease. Carson’s book initiated concerns in general public about the indiscriminate use of DDT and other pesticides and thus through a series of legal hearings, in 1972 DDT use was banned or restricted in US (EPA, 1975). Most of the developing countries Sweden, Belgium, France etc followed the suit however, in developing countr ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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