‘DDT Is Good For Me-e-e’


‘DDT (DichloroDiphenylTrichloroethane) is one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides.

‘First synthesized in 1874, DDT’s insecticidal properties were not discovered until 1939, and it was used with great success in the second half of World War II to control malaria and typhus among civilians and troops. After the war, DDT was made available for use as an agricultural insecticide.

‘In 1962, Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson was published. The book catalogued the environmental impacts of the indiscriminate spraying of DDT in the US and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health.  Its publication was one of the signature events in the birth of the environmental movement, and resulted in a large public outcry that eventually led to DDT being banned in the US in 1972.  DDT was subsequently banned for agricultural use worldwide.’

- Wikipedia

Thank you to The Society Pages

Images 3 & 4 from Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life. Thank you to Clay Harris.

10 comments to ‘DDT Is Good For Me-e-e’

  • Xris (Flatbush Gardener)

    As a kid in Florida, in the 1960s, we greeted the arrival of the fogger truck with almost as much glee as the ice cream truck. I’ve never seen a photo of kids running and playing in the fog as we did.

  • John P

    DDT gets a bad press, particularly care of Rachel Carson’s scaremongering. The truth is much more complex and interesting – and important if you happen to want to reduce the million or so preventable deaths a year in Africa rather than feel good about your green credentials in cold countries which don’t have to deal with it anymore. Here’s a serious counterblast: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2005_docs/DDTworstcrime.pdf Great ads, though, as ever…

  • Naomi

    DDT treated wallpaper for a child’s room? Jeez.

  • qka

    Actually, DDT treated wallpaper makes sense. Today, DDT is still used in mosquito control programs. It is applied to interior walls and ceilings of residences, because that is where mosquitos rest when they are not biting the occupants. Being inside buildings, it is not susceptible to being washed away and migrating into the outdoor environment.

  • Pit13

    I’ve been to Africa a couple of times and have seen the impact of malaria on the population. Rachel Carson’s book, and the movement it spawned, has led to the deaths of millions. Very, very sad to see people dying and instead of using a tool we have to control the insects causing the deaths, aid groups hand out mosquito nets that last a few weeks at best.

  • Fred Dobbs

    After climate change, DDT use is one of the hottest of hot buttons for drawing out a certain kind of “reaction”…

    Only a few minutes of consultation of Wikipedia on DDT produces the following story of initial success, followed by problems:

    In 1955, the World Health Organization commenced a program to eradicate malaria worldwide, relying largely on DDT. The program was initially highly successful, eliminating the disease in “Taiwan, much of the Caribbean, the Balkans, parts of northern Africa, the northern region of Australia, and a large swath of the South Pacific”[19] and dramatically reducing mortality in Sri Lanka and India.[20] However widespread agricultural use led to resistant insect populations. In many areas, early victories partially or completely reversed, and in some cases rates of transmission even increased.[21] The program was successful in eliminating malaria only in areas with “high socio-economic status, well-organized healthcare systems, and relatively less intensive or seasonal malaria transmission”.[22]

    Again from Wikipedia, on DDT resistance:

    Resistance has greatly reduced DDT’s effectiveness. WHO guidelines require that absence of resistance must be confirmed before using the chemical.[90] Resistance is largely due to agricultural use, in much greater quantities than required for disease prevention. According to one study that attempted to quantify the lives saved by banning agricultural use and thereby slowing the spread of resistance, “it can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria.”[21]

    Resistance was noted early in spray campaigns. Paul Russell, a former head of the Allied Anti-Malaria campaign, observed in 1956 that “resistance has appeared [after] six or seven years.”[19] DDT has lost much of its effectiveness in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Turkey and Central America, and it has largely been replaced by organophosphate or carbamate insecticides, e.g. malathion or bendiocarb.[91]

    Again from Wikipedia, on health and other problems:

    People living in areas where DDT is used for IRS have high levels of the chemical and its breakdown products in their bodies. Compared to contemporaries living where DDT is not used, South Africans living in sprayed homes have levels that are several orders of magnitude greater.[35] Breast milk in regions where DDT is used against malaria greatly exceeds the allowable standards for breast-feeding infants.[101][102][103] These levels are associated with neurological abnormalities in babies.[91][101][102]

    Most studies of DDT’s human health effects have been conducted in developed countries where DDT is not used and exposure is relatively low. Many experts urge that alternatives be used instead of IRS.[23][35] Epidemiologist Brenda Eskenazi argues, “We know DDT can save lives by repelling and killing disease-spreading mosquitoes. But evidence suggests that people living in areas where DDT is used are exposed to very high levels of the pesticide. The only published studies on health effects conducted in these populations have shown profound effects on male fertility. Clearly, more research is needed on the health of populations where indoor residual spraying is occurring, but in the meantime, DDT should really be the last resort against malaria rather than the first line of defense.”[104]

    Illegal diversion to agriculture is also a concern, as it is almost impossible to prevent, and its subsequent use on crops is uncontrolled. For example, DDT use is widespread in Indian agriculture,[105] particularly mango production,[106] and is reportedly used by librarians to protect books.[107] Other examples include Ethiopia, where DDT intended for malaria control is reportedly being used in coffee production,[108] and Ghana where it is used for fishing.”[109][110] The residues in crops at levels unacceptable for export have been an important factor in recent bans in several tropical countries.[91] Adding to this problem is a lack of skilled personnel and supervision.[98]

    Again from Wikipedia, on Rachel Carson and DDT:

    Criticisms of a DDT “ban” often specifically reference the 1972 US ban (with the erroneous implication that this constituted a worldwide ban and prohibited use of DDT in vector control). Reference is often made to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring even though she never pushed for a ban on DDT. John Quiggin and Tim Lambert wrote, “the most striking feature of the claim against Carson is the ease with which it can be refuted.”[115] Carson actually devoted a page of her book to considering the relationship between DDT and malaria, warning of the evolution of DDT resistance in mosquitoes and concluding:

    It is more sensible in some cases to take a small amount of damage in preference to having none for a time but paying for it in the long run by losing the very means of fighting [is the advice given in Holland by Dr Briejer in his capacity as director of the Plant Protection Service]. Practical advice should be “Spray as little as you possibly can” rather than “Spray to the limit of your capacity.”

    Again from Wikipedia, on practical alternatives:

    A WHO study released in January 2008 found that mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and artemisinin–based drugs cut malaria deaths in half in Rwanda and Ethiopia, countries with high malaria burdens. IRS with DDT did not play an important role in mortality reduction in these countries.[123][124]

    Vietnam has enjoyed declining malaria cases and a 97% mortaility reduction after switching in 1991 from a poorly funded DDT-based campaign to a program based on prompt treatment, bednets, and pyrethroid group insecticides.[125]

    In Mexico, effective and affordable chemical and non-chemical strategies against malaria have been so successful that the Mexican DDT manufacturing plant ceased production due to lack of demand.[126]


    In short: DDT can certainly kill mosquitoes effectively … for a while. Then resistance appears, especially if used indiscriminately. In the meantime, it becomes endemic in the environment.

    So compare all this to statements that blame the whole problem on the Gubbermint, evil Greens, and that commie she-devil, Rachel Carson. Who is actually making more sense?


  • Pit13

    Fred, excellent cutting and pasting from Wikipedia. Branch out a bit more dude and read some sources, besides the WHO (and for that matter, the American Council on Science and Health, which advocates the use of DDT). I haven’t seen any source besides a couple WHO studies, or folks that quote the WHO, who have facts on resistance to DDT.

    I’m not saying DDT is perfect, but the campaign against it put the supposed impact to the “environment” over the lives of human beings. If the studies and evidence against DDT were of the same quality as the current evidence supporting man made global warming then they are most certainly suspect.

    But thanks for the info on Carson, I didn’t know she was a commie!

  • Topov


    “Branch out a bit more dude and read some sources…I haven’t seen any source besides a couple WHO studies, or folks that quote the WHO, who have facts on resistance to DDT. ”

    Presumably you prefer to get your info from nutcase netsites asnd their special brand of non-peer-reviewed pseudoscience, cherry-picked stats and waffle from paid lobbyists that usefully endorse your John Birch Society-flavoured crocodile tears over the Third World dead. Of course you are so concerned about these people, you’d happily support tax money going on research and effective means to help those people . Wouldn’t you?

  • Linda Tait

    I cannot understand those that feel people should die of cancer and other DDT related illnesses then of Malaria. If other countries that have a malaria outbreak want DDT let them have it but we should not have to take the risk of contracting cancer because of it. As with cigarette smoking, if you want to kill yourself, do so, but don’t pollute the original clean air with your sickening cigarette smoke. If they would quit spraying poison into the air we would have more of the natural means of killing mosiquitoes, like Bats, Birds, Wild Fowl and so on. DDT is killing all or our natural habitat for some radical beliefs. I commend Rachael for her book and her actions to abolish DDT.

  • Jinx

    My mother also remembers playing in the mist of the fogger truck in post war Florida. She’s always had health problems, not sure we can say they ALL came from DDT exposure!

    We were sooooooo close to eradicating the bedbug in this nation. Now they are back, and short of tiring steaming, there is NOTHING on the market that can kill those things like DDT.

    You think humans are on the top of the food chain? NOPE! It’s the bed bug!

    Handled properly, DDT is a useful tool against being chewed on by tiny pests. We have learned to take care to keep pesticides out of the watershed, why can’t we have the good stuff once again?

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