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The Positive Effects Of DDT

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922 words
Science & Nature

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In the United States, the media has a tendency to report only the
negative details of everything. Such was the case in the late 1960's and
early 1970's when the pesticide DDT was investigated and eventually
prohibited. Most of the claims against DDT remain unproved to this day.
There were three main allegations against DDT: that DDT caused the death of
many birds and could lead to the extinction of some bird populations; that
DDT was so stable that it could never be eliminated form the environment;
and that DDT might cause cancer in humans (Ray 71). None of these charges
has ever been substantiated. Some of them are outrageous exaggerations,
while others hold no truth at all. The most redeeming feature of DDT is
its ability to protect crops from a variety of different pests. This is
why DDT is known as the most effective pesticide ever produced (Ray 71).
It is proven to have been the most effective chemical ever to prevent the
spread of malaria all over the world. It nearly wiped out the disease in
some countries altogether. It has been repeatedly proven that DDT does not
cause any form of cancer in humans. Contrary to what environmentalist
attacks on the pesticide have alleged, the benefits of DDT far exceed the
DDT was first synthesized in 1887 and patented as an insecticide in
1939 by a Swiss chemist, Dr. Paul M'ller (Whelan 69). It initially became
popular because of its effectiveness against insects, specifically clothes
moths and parasites of both animals and plants. DDT was welcomed as a
substitute for toxic insecticides like arsenic, mercury, fluorine, and lead
(Whelan 70). It was used by the Allied troops during World War II in order
to kill body lice without having harmful side-affects on humans. The
elimination of the lice resulted in the absence of typhus fever (which was
carried by the lice) among the Allied troops for the first time in the
history of warfare. After the insecticidal effects of DDT had been
discovered and proven during the war, scientists soon found that DDT was
effective against all sorts of other insects including the spruce budworm,
gypsy moth, tussock moth, pine weevil, and cotton boll weevil (Ray 68).
The gypsy moth has been a major problem in the United States for more than
a hundred years because of its ability to devour the leaves off of several
acres of trees and plants over night. With DDT, the gypsy moth was
virtually eliminated in the United States by the late 1950's (Whelan 71).
The low cost and effectiveness of DDT led to its later use in pest control
in agriculture and forestry. In 1968, one pound of DDT cost 17.5 cents
(Whelan 70). So effective was DDT that its use spread all over the world,
controlling the population of insects and pests on crops and forests.
Before DDT was used, about 200 million people (Ray 68-69) every
year were diagnosed as infected with malaria, and nearly two million of
those who were diagnosed died each year. In 1946, the number of people
stricken with malaria dropped drastically as a result of a massive spraying
program in Sri Lanka, and various other countries which had adopted similar
programs, directed at the malaria-carrying mosquito. DDT was sprayed on
the walls in people's homes to kill these mosquitoes, which feed on
sleeping victims and then fly to the nearest vertical structure to rest and
digest its meal. By spraying DDT on the walls upon which the mosquito
would land, the insect was virtually wiped out. Public health statistics
in Sri Lanka testify to the effectiveness of the spraying program. During
the years when DDT was being used, the number of malaria victims was
unbelievably lower than in the years preceding its use. When DDT was
banned, the numbers of malaria victims began to rise significantly. In
1948, Dr. M'ller was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine because of the
medical importance of DDT (Whelan 70), specifically its ability to prevent
the spread of malaria, typhus, yellow fever, sleeping sickness, plague, and
encephalitis, which are all carried by insects (Ray 70). Dr. Samuel
Simmons, chief of the technology branch of the Communicable Disease Center
of the U.S. Public Health Service said in 1959:

The total value of DDT to mankind is inestimable. Most of
the peoples of the globe have received benefit from it
either directly by protection from infectious diseases and
pestiferous insects or indirectly by better nutrition,
cleaner food, and increased disease resistance. The
discovery of DDT will always remain an historic event in the
fields of public health and agriculture (Ray 69-70).

DDT has been the target of thousands of environmentalist attacks
for fifty years. The incessant whining about the negative effects of DDT
in the late 60's and early 70's resulted to a public hearing in 1971 held
in order to decide whether or not DDT should be forever banned. People
thought that DDT was toxic to birds that could ingest it from eating
insects, earthworms, or seeds in sprayed areas. People also thought that
if the amount of DDT that the bird ingested did not kill it right away, it

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Keywords: what are the negative effects of ddt, positive effects of ddt, what is a positive result of using ddt, benefits of ddt

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