The History of DDT Essay Example


DDT is a chemical that was used as an insecticide in the 1940s. Scientists proclaimed that DDT was incredibly safe, to the point where they almost encouraged exposure to it. The public believed it was so safe that they even knowingly drank it in their water. Since then it has been proven otherwise. DDT has been found estrogenic and causes an imbalance in the reproductive system. It also affects aquatic animal life. DDT causes infertility and deformities in animals just like humans. To this day, scientists are discovering ways DDT has affected the environment and us. But the only reason DDT is a threat to us is because of its estrogenic properties. How did they find out how DDT was estrogenic?

During the initial use of DDT, it was used to cure epidemics and to treat wounded soldiers in the Second World War. Towards the latter part of the 19th century, the people who were treated with DDT or were exposed to it were experiencing incredible sickness. After being tested these people were found to have a high level of DDT in their systems. After more testing by various scientists, the conclusion was made that DDT was causing an imbalance in the reproductive system. But why? DDT never hurt anyone before. The reason was that from 1940 DDT has been accumulating in the next generation. The parents would literally, unknowingly, pass on their dose of DDT to their children, so on so forth. In 1991, the Mexican government sprayed DDT over its population to stop an epidemic of malaria. Although malaria was driven away, many people became sick with breast cancer. After more studies from many scientists around the globe, it was proven that DDT’s estrogenic qualities also caused breast cancer. Although DDT caused havoc among humans, it was much more devastating to aquatic life around the United States.

During the use of DDT, it was sprayed over most of the crops in the 1940s. In surface water, DDT would bind to particles in the water, settle, and be deposited in the sediment. Through irrigation, the DDT infected water would travel to the canals of the farmlands. After this, the water would find its way to the various nearby rivers and lakes surrounding the farmlands. Just like in humans, the DDT infested waters began affecting the fish and aquatic birds of the area. In fish, DDT caused infertility which led to a massive reduction in populations of trout and other native fish in the US. Birds were affected by DDT because their shells became thinner and were susceptible to break, and many did. Which also caused a crash in aquatic bird populations. It may look like a pointless battle where only DDT can win. But there is hope.

In 1972 EPA banned the use and distribution of DDT in the United States. In addition to this ban, scientists have been hard at work trying to find ways to combat the diseases and defects DDT causes in both humans and animals. Since the ban of DDT, many of the affected populations of fish and aquatic birds have been able to bounce back, which is a big relief to zoologists. The effects of DDT as a synthetic estrogen have been devastating but the United States is slowly building its way out of this rabbit hole.

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