Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was one of the first chemicals in widespread use as a pesticide. Following World War II, it was promoted as a wonder-chemical (hailed as “the wonder chemical of World War II”), the simple solution to pest problems large and small. DDT was developed as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides in the 1940s. It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations. It also was effective for insect control in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes, and gardens.
DDT’s quick success as a pesticide and broad use in the United States and other countries led to the development of resistance by many insect pest species. It was first synthesized by Othmar Zeidler in 1874 but its insecticidal qualities were not discovered until 1939 by the Swiss chemist Paul Muller. The American military began testing it in 1942 and it quickly became the cardinal weapon used to protect troops in areas laden with vector-borne diseases such as typhus and malaria. (Bailey) After the war was over, farmers adopted the use of the pesticide since it was cheaper – as low as $0. 5 per pound – and less damaging than previous arsenic-based insecticides.
Testing by the U. S. Public Health Service and the US Food and Drug Administration Division of Pharmacology found no serious human toxicity problems, since it is an organochloride insecticide, which by nature is not acutely toxic. However, these are very persistent, biodegrade slowly, and build up in the food chain, causing negative side effects in the long term. Only small amounts of DDT were used in World War II, but with the experts’ blessing and a cheap price, its use was ubiquitous.
In the 1960s, 400,000 tons were applied annually worldwide (about 70% was for agricultural use), eradicating Malaria entirely in the southern U. S and increasing agricultural output. Some believe it directly decreased the number of farmers in the country because it increased output so greatly. Sweden banned DDT in 1970, and U. S. in 1972 because of environmental concerns. DDT continues to be used as an insecticide in some developing countries for “essential public health purposes” but is no longer used in agriculture. A few countries, including the U. S. , still produce DDT today.
Some still question the decision to ban it because of its effectiveness in cheaply combating vector-borne diseases. Key Persons Behind DDT Othmar Zeidler (August 29, 1850 – June 17, 1911), an Austrian chemist, credited with the first synthesis of DDT in 1874. However, he did not recognize its usefulness as an insecticide as Paul Hermann Muller did in 1939. Paul Hermann Muller (January 12, 1899 -October 12, 1965), a Swiss Scientist, who worked for JR Geigy AG. It is there where he discovered DDT as an insecticide which proved to be useful in controlling many vector-borne diseases including malaria and yellow fever.
He patented the pesticide in Switzerland (1940), the US (1942), and Australia (1943). Muller recognized that DDT was a useful insecticide. It is very useful in eliminating mosquitoes and consequently in controlling the spread of malaria, typhus, and other vector-borne diseases. It was used heavily in World War II and up until the early 1960s, until 1962 when American biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring which allegedly claimed that DDT causes Cancer and harms reproduction in birds.
Human Aspect Malaria is one of the most common causes of deaths in the world population wherein almost half of it (3. 2 billion people) are affected. This disease is caused by Anopheles mosquito bites (World Health Organization, 2016). As part of the measures to control malaria, spraying of DDT was applied. WHO promotes DDT in combating malaria at least in the context of IRS and within the Stockholm Convention (Palmer, 2006).
As a result, the malaria affliction rate severely reduced when DDT was used in equatorial or tropical countries where mosquitoes are most prominent especially in Africa (Mwangi, 2006). Another advantage is that DDT is also inexpensive and very easy to produce when compared to the alternatives (Walker, 2000). DDT’s effects on humans are not clear. It is linked with cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive and developmental effects.
DDE, a derivative component of DDT, can be a possible cause for lower semen quality (Jager, et al. , 2006), early miscarriages (Venners, et al. 2005), and fetus developmental delay thereby qualifying it as a Stockholm Convention POP. (Brenda, et al. , 2009). Environmental Aspect Clearly, DDT has numerous benefits to humans. When it comes to the environment, there are some advantages too in using the said insecticide. DDT is less toxic to the natural environment than its alternatives (i. e. , banned dieldrin and cypermethrin derivatives) in improving public health safety in human environments and especially when used within the *Stockholm Convention limits (burn0365, 2009).
DDT, when, used properly is not severely dangerous to birds and to the general wildlife unless used on a massive scale likethe way it was used back in the 1950-1960s. (Edwards, 2004) Consequently, DDT has also adverse effects on the environment. In large doses, DDT can cause very noticeable wildlife effects. Egg shell thinning, which is an outcome when birds took in DDT in large doses, affected the avian population and decreased reproductive rates especially in eagles and hawks. The insecticide can also prove fatal to its resident fishes (Edwards, 2004).
Lastly, DDT can contaminate environments. The land is contaminated, as with most chemical pesticides, leading to contaminated produce and feed for animals. Lakes, streams, etc. , can be poisoned. The air becomes contaminated leading into bird population decrease and human/animal inhalation. (Cleveland, Weis, & Monosson, 2008) RELATION TO CONTEMPORARY TIMES AND CULTURE Personal lives The book of Rachel Carson still has an effect in this contemporary period especially in each one’s personal life.
DDT is no longer present, mercury has disappeared from the bodies of water, and the carcinogenic isotope Strontium-90 has virtually vanished from bones, people have come to realize that through the use of science and technology the lives of the people are so much better and improved; however, these inventions should be fully studied, investigated, and tested by a number of professionals to ensure the safety of the people and also the environment. In order to attain a harmonious life in this world people should strive to achieve a life that is balance with nature (Cause without a Rebel: Silent Spring and the Rise of Environmentalism, 2016).
Community Aside from the change of attitude of people towards their surroundings, Rachel Carson changed the view of people about their relationship with the natural environment. It became a turning point of the movement about the modern environment. She noticed that the government was too excited to create a change that they do not realize it is not fully investigated by experts. She questioned the direction and extent of modern science and initiated a revolutionary movement.
During the 20th century, people placed their trusted the scientists as they gained control over nature to make the society “happier, healthier, and wealthier” (American Chemical Society, 2012). The evident growth in the number of groups that develop concern about the environment can be observed nowadays. Because of the DDT incident and other environmental and human threats, different communities raise awareness thus being more involved in these issues. As an application, they propose laws that would ban harmful chemicals or inventions, develop natural alternatives or influence others to take a stand as well.
With these continuous and collective efforts, the aspects at stake are being assured that they are secured. STS In addition, as a result of this awareness of the people about these harmful products, Science and technology flourished in order to make a good change in the way of living of the people and in order to the improve the status of the environment by making new technologies and discoveries that are fully investigated and studied to ensure that this will not damage the environment or put at risk the health of the people and animals.
As Cutcliffe (2002) suggests, STS is on its journey of helping in molding the public’s response, involvement and awareness towards the scientific and technological decision making. In turn, this is a good implication since it shows that society are not just feeding on the information and discoveries that they receive but examine it themselves thoroughly and be able to take their stand individually.