DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)

Ddt Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane 2864
Photo by: bluehand

DDT is a synthetic chemical compound once used widely in the United States and throughout the world as a pesticide (a chemical substance used to kill weeds, insects, rodents, or other pests). It is probably best known for its dual nature: although remarkably effective in destroying certain living things that are harmful to plants and animals, it can also be extremely dangerous to humans and the environment.

The abbreviation DDT stands for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. DDT was first produced in the laboratory in 1873. For more than half a century, it was little more than a laboratory curiosity—a complicated synthetic (produced by scientists) compound with no apparent use.

Then, in 1939, Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller (1899–1965) discovered that DDT was highly poisonous to insects. The discovery was very important because of its potential for use in killing insects that cause disease and eat agricultural crops. For his work, Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1948.

DDT as an insecticide

During and after World War II (1939–45), DDT became extremely popular among public health workers, farmers, and foresters. Peak production of the compound reached 386 million pounds (175 million kilograms) globally in 1970. Between 1950 and 1970, 22,204 tons (20,000 metric tons) of DDT was used annually in the former Soviet Union. The greatest use of DDT in the United States occurred in 1959, when 79 million pounds (36 million kilograms) of the chemical were sprayed.

By the early 1970s, however, serious questions were being raised about the environmental effects of DDT. Reports indicated that harmless insects (such as bees), fish, birds, and other animals were being killed or harmed as a result of exposure to DDT. The pesticide was even blamed for the near-extinction of at least one bird, the peregrine falcon. Convinced that the environmental damage from DDT was greater than the compound's possible benefits, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT in the United States in 1973. Its use in certain other countries has continued, however, since some nations face health and environmental problems quite different from those of the United States.

DDT's environmental problems arise because of two important properties: persistence and lipid-solubility. The term persistence refers to the fact that DDT does not break down very easily. Once the pesticide has been used in an area, it is likely to remain there for many years. In addition, DDT does not dissolve in water, although it does dissolve in fatty or oily liquids. (The term lipid-solubility is used because fats and oils are

Before the dangers of DDT were known, cro ple alike were sprayed with the chemical to protect against bothersome insects. (Reproduced courtesy of the Library of Congress.)
Before the dangers of DDT were known, cro ple alike were sprayed with the chemical to protect against bothersome insects. (Reproduced courtesy of the
Library of Congress

members of the organic family known as lipids.) Since DDT is not soluble in water, it is not washed away by the rain, adding to its persistence in the environment. But since DDT is lipid-soluble, it tends to concentrate in the body fat of animals. The following sequence of events shows how DDT can become a problem for many animals in a food web.

DDT is used today in such African nations as Zimbabwe and Ethiopia to control mosquitoes and the tsetse fly. These two insects cause serious diseases, such as malaria and sleeping sickness. DDT saves lives when used on the tsetse fly in Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. But once sprayed on

Clutch of mallard eggs contaminated by DDT. The accumulation of DDT in many birds causes reproductive difficulties. Eggs have thinner shells that break easily, and some eggs may not hatch at all. (Reproduced by permisson of the National Geographic Image Collection.)
Clutch of mallard eggs contaminated by DDT. The accumulation of DDT in many birds causes reproductive difficulties. Eggs have thinner shells that break easily, and some eggs may not hatch at all. (Reproduced by permisson of the
National Geographic Image Collection

the lake, DDT does not disappear very quickly. Instead, it is taken up by plants and animals that live in the lake. Studies have shown that the concentration of DDT in the lake itself is only 0.002 parts per billion. But algae in the lake have a concentration of 2.5 parts per million. Other members of the food web also accumulate DDT from the organisms they eat. Fish that feed on the algae have DDT levels of 2 parts per million; tiger-fish and cormorants (both of whom live on the algae-eating fish) have levels of 5 and 10 parts per million, respectively; and crocodiles (who eat both tiger-fish and cormorants) have levels as high as 34 parts per million.

Bans on the use of DDT in the United States and some other nations have given ecosystems in those countries a chance to recover. Populations of peregrine falcons, for example, have begun to stabilize and grow once again. Many other animal species are no longer at risk from DDT. Of course, poor nations continue to face a more difficult choice than does the United States, since they must balance the protection of the health of their human populations against the protection of their natural ecosystems.

In December 2000, in a convention organized by the United Nations Environment Program, 122 nations agreed to a treaty banning twelve very toxic chemicals. Included among the twelve was DDT. However, the treaty allowed the use of DDT to combat malaria until other alternatives become available. Before it can take effect, the treaty must be ratified by 50 of the nations that agreed to it in principle.

User Contributions:

What I found out is that DDT does not only affect certain organisms in our ecosystem, but has contributed to alot of other health hazards. These includes hard soil, the properties of DDT somehow degenerates the water retention system making it hard for the soil to retain water for a period of time.
there is a possible link between cancer but not a proven one
Akim Blanc
what read is that DDT is harmful once sprayed into the air.
This is in response to Kenneth, There is no proven connection between DDT and cancer however there has been some speculation. As for AIDS/HIV you cannot get these from a pesticide, the only way to become infected with these is by blood/other bodily fluids.
DDT actually was never proven to be dangerous to the environment, there are actual quotes saying it was more of a political move to ban it than anything else. Sarah is correct, there was no proven connection between DDT and cancer (and they refuse to test it to see if it actually does harm the environment and/or living organisms)
This was a big help to my science paper i would racomend this to anyone that needs help with this stuff now if only they could do the work for me
Why Biomagnificaiton is seen commonly in aquatic food chain and not in terrestrial food chain
What is D.D.T Full Name ?
Hope to hear from you

IN the 1950s and 1960s, something strange was happening in the estuaries near long Island Sound, near New Yourk and Connnecticut. Birds of prey, such as ospreys and eagles, that fed on fish in the estuaries had high concentrations of the pesticide DDT in their bodies. I found this on one of my environmental science books on Chapter 5 Section 1 p.120-121 very interesting on one of my assignments i had to do for school bye.
this was a fantastic article that made me understand many more about ddt...
but more important for me is to learn about its preparation..
I like your article. I am attempting to find any information of DDT's effects on the human body. Do you have any information on this subject. You mentioned that there is no proven connection to cancer? Could you help verify this statement. Thank you.
Rachel Carson took up the problem of chemical pesticides in "Silent Spring". She was a respected scientist as well as author. Carson wrote a book about the environmental impact of pesticides, especially of the compound dichlorodiphenylrichloroethane (DDT). DDT had been used after and during world war 2 to control insects remove disease threats and increase food production. Carson traced the horrible effects that were happening to DDT.
I also thought this article was very interesting. When I read it I fully understood it. Make more articles like this!
This article is interesting but why get rid of DDT's, why not introduce a newer more safer chemical?
How come the levels of DDT increse at each level of the food chain?
Would you please tell me where at the Library of Congress you got the photo with the tractor?

I am a college student and it is for educational purposes...

Thank you
what about is it still used? but where can we use it even if it is still so harmful?!
how did the DDT found in water plants get there originally?
Marika Feduschak
Hello. I am an eighth grade student in Eagle, Colorado. I am doing a documentary on pesticides and was wondering if I could use the picture of the duck next to the eggs. Please respond as soon as possible. Thank you.
DDT is highly poisonous to insects. why is that so?
if DDT is so dangerous, then why is it still in our food today?
-reply asap
-science homework :)
Which contries don't use DDT? Am in year 7 UK and doing a project of toxins in food chains.
How was DDT found and how ?
Why is ddt an ingredient in common hiv retrovirals as 2dt or 3dt and people taking these tablets are not made aware of it. Or are people expected to find that themselves?
if ay one knows the disposal method of expired DDT please share me other than incineration method
and can mix the expired DDT with toilet sludge
What year was DDT sprayed on Lake Kariba? Is there an official website that posted the results from this experiment? What other countries use DDT still? If you could get back to me on these, it would be wonderful!
Super Article!
Thanks for the article. It helped me on my essay. :)
Why do ddt can become easily concentrated in fatty tissues of animals
DDT has two benzene molecules that create the large (6) Pi-Bonding Electrons (PBEs) magnetic current (Weber) energy fields. This magnetic field can penetrate your cells 7.5 Nano-meter thick membranes and mutate your cells MAKP/ERK phosphorylation signalling pathway. This can be the start of cancer or many other diseases. Check the same problems with Agent Orange and phosphates in laundry detergents. Check the Thalidomide story and look at the pictures of the children that were mutated before birth. My new research found that caffeine with its ten PBEs magnetic current energy fields are the worlds number one killer of people, It talks many years, but it will happen. Lets talk..I have many years of research reports to share. Del.
I learn that DDT was used in many farms to kill certain pest. Is their other uses of D.D.T or is just a pesticide.
Mathew S.
I think that DDT is good and bad at the same time. I think this because it has good use when it comes to diseases such as malaria and it kills the insects that gives the disease. DDT can be bad because it kills many animals we need in our lives and when DDT gets in our water and we drink the water without cleaning, we would most likely be sick and it isn't really worth it. To summarize this up, DDT can be beneficial to us, but it can hurt our environment. So, lets try our best to keep our environment clean and let more animal populations increase.
In my opinion i believe that DDT is a good and bad thing to our environment. I say this since in the article above it talks about how we use it against diseases in the world. It is good for the people who are getting rid of the diseases but bad to the environment. It affects the environment extremely such as extincting certain animals or making them lose their habitat. We need to be more careful in using pesticides and thinking about the pros and cons.
Samantha Bui
I think that DDT is bad and also good at the same time because DDT keeps the pests away so we can grow crops to eat but at the same time it kills innocent animals that we need in our environment.
This Website helped me define DDT for my science project. I never knew that it could be so harmful to the human body.I also learned that it effects birds egg shell when it gets into a birds system. Thanks for sharing!!!
Anthony nelson
His voice and the other hand is the only thing that would make it a lot of fun to use it for a few years back on my way home and sleep all night and I'm still not sure what I was a great way of the day before I get a follow back on my way home and sleep all night and I'm still not sure what I was a great way of the day before I get a follow back please I need a good lies lies, and more lies
I'm trying to use this article, but i don't know the author. Does anyone know who it is?
My dad, a Forest Ranger, walked thru the forest, weekly, pushing a wheelbarrow type sprayer that rotated back & forth spraying DDT. The spray was aimed @ the camp sites to reduce mosquito population. He died @ the age of 46, of hemochromatosis. Certainly wonder about the relationship between DDT & his early death.
what are the strengths and weaknesses of DDT?? and what does DDT even mean i researched a bunch and can find what it means!!!
what would happen if ddt came back how many animals will go extinct
Robert A Erickson
I was exposed to DDT while fighting a forest fire near a Air Force Base. I have proven to the Dept. of Vet Affairs that DDT exposure was a cause of my Diabetes Type II. Now I have suffered Ischemic Heart Disease. Is there any proof that would show that DDT exposure could be a cause Ischemic Heart Disease?

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