DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) is perhaps the most recognized of all insecticides because it's use helped reveal the many hazards associated with synthetic (man-made) pesticides. This colorless, odorless, insoluble toxic pesticide contains up to fourteen chemical compounds. It is known for its ability to eradicate (destroy) pesky insects such as flies, lice, and mosquitoes, as well as agricultural pests. Although first synthesized in 1874 by German chemist Othmar Zeidler, DDT was not used as an insecticide until 1939. It was then that Swiss scientist Paul Hermann Muller (1899-1965) discovered its insect-killing properties.

DDT is very durable. In some applications it is effective for 12 years. Water cannot wash it away and it resists breakdown by light and air. Its strength and persistence have resulted in DDT's transfer to "non-target" living organisms. Once in an ecosystem (an inter-related community of animals, plants, and bacteria), it can pass on from crops to birds and from water to fish, eventually affecting the whole food chain.

DDT Exposure

When ingested by humans, DDT is stored in body fats and can be passed on to nursing babies. Low levels of DDT in humans are harmless but large concentrations can cause severe health problems such as liver cancer. When applied to an insect, DDT is easily absorbed through the body surface. After attacking the nervous system, DDT causes paralysis. Some insects have a resistance to DDT, thereby making the insecticide ineffective. These resistant insects are able to reproduce and pass this trait on to their offspring.

Many problems arise when larger animals are exposed to DDT or eat smaller animals that have ingested (eaten) the toxin (poison). For example, while DDT is more toxic to fish than birds, it still causes widespread bird deaths. With high levels of exposure, DDT causes convulsions and paralyzes the birds' nerve centers. In smaller concentrations, it can weaken their egg shells and can cause sharp declines in the species' reproductive rate. DDT ingestion by peregrine falcons is thought to have caused their almost complete extinction in most regions of the United States.

The Benefits of DDT

The benefits of DDT were demonstrated in the 1940s when it was used in World War I (1939-1945) to clear out mosquito-infested areas prior to invasion. Even after the war, the use of DDT in the United States almost completely wiped out malaria (an infectious disease characterized by severe chills and fever) and yellow fever. In tropical areas, the use of DDT has helped save millions of lives that would otherwise have been lost to disease. DDT was also routinely applied as a crop dust or water spray on orchards, gardens, fields, and forests. At one point it was registered for use on 334 agricultural crops.

As part of a 1945 experiment, two researchers drain an artificial pond to see if fish were harmed by exposure to a DDT.
As part of a 1945 experiment, two researchers drain an artificial pond to see if fish were harmed by exposure to a DDT.

In 1962 Rachel Carson's (1907-1964) landmark book, Silent Spring, exposed the dangers of unregulated pesticide use. Spurred by public pressure, state and federal governments turned their attention to the regulation of pesticides. In 1972, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of DDT. Today, DDT is restricted in the United States, Europe, and Japan. However, many other countries still use DDT widely for malaria control, delousing, and the eradication of other disease-spreading insects.

User Contributions:

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Nov 19, 2006 @ 1:13 pm
I feel that is a very important article because this is an very important issue. I'm very glad this problem has been resolved! Although I still have alot of question about this issue, this article has helped me greatly.

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Feb 10, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
Are there any studies or anecdotal record of tremors occuring in humans later in life due to dermal exposure to DDT?
steve carey
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Dec 29, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
I am very interested in any more facts on DDT. I was presumeably affected by DDT in Monroe wash in the strawberry patch in around 1961 to 1964. How it affects the nervous system,eyes,ears and mind. The farmer and most of his family died most likely as to not handling the pestiscide correctly.
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Jan 29, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
As a preteen in a small town in Florida our favorite thing to do was run behind the bug truck that was spraying for bugs. the truck put out a huge mist of fog (DDT) it was so much fun, getting lost in the fog with all the neighborhood kids. It was like the ice cream truck had come. We didn't know. Now, as an older adult, I have many strange health problems that no one seems to know exactally what I have and why I grow masses inside and out of my body. It makes me think back to the fiftes and sixtes inhaling and bathing in DDT every month for years. Am I the product of the DDT era?
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Mar 11, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
I just read Linda's comments and share the same experience. I grew up in Far Rockaway, N.Y. It must have been the mid 1950's and our favorite summer past time was exactly the same as Linda's. We used to call it the "Fog Man" and when he came down our street we would get enveloped in the DDT fog and run behind the truck inhaling the vapors for as long as we could. I can still recognize that smell. I am 65 years old now and in the past 6 months I have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy which can be quite painful at times. I also have type II diabetes and my doctors have assumed that is the cause. I have been skeptical of it being related to diabetes because all of my blood sugar tests are stellar. I have controlled it with diet, exercise and 750mg. glucophage. Although it is possible to have good numbers and still develop neuropathy I have had my doubts. I have felt that one day there was going to be a pay back from the fog man days and the neuropathy in my case may be it.
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Mar 31, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
I moved from a 1940s home in DeLand Florida which was later found to have DDT contamination in the well water(s) in the subdivision. In the 50s, there had been orange groves in the vicinity and it was determined that was where the DDT originated. I know that while living there, I would continually experience small sores in the mouth, styes in the eyes, I couldn't grow finger nails (they would peel like paper), and a permanent rash on my back. I saw dermatologist and they could not determine what was causing the rash. I was tested for allergies, but found to only be alergic to cats. I also noticed that my immune system was just not working as it should be. I would get minor scratches that would be evident for weeks before completely healing and would allways leave a scar just from a scratch. Since moving from there about a year ago, I no longer experience the sores in my mouth, styes in the eyes, my fingernails grow normally now and the rash is all but gone. My immune system, however, is still not what it should be when I receive a scrape or scratch. It does not heal quickly, but it does better than it used to.

Has anyone anyone heard if these are some of the symtoms of exposure to DDT?
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Mar 13, 2013 @ 9:21 pm
I am reading these emails and my storey sounds familier.I was born in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada.We too ran behind the DDT trucks in the 60's and thought it was fun.
Now in my 60's I have Immungloblin Difficency syndrom.I am very sick all the time. I had precancers polyos,and sever stomach problems and many more problems. How do you prove these problems have to do with your health. Also brain problems.

Thanks Heather
Brian Raven
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Apr 18, 2013 @ 7:19 pm
I too, ran and played behind these fog trucks for years in my childhood during the 60's. all thru life I struggled with diffiencies in my brain and now I'm unable to have effective muscle control and tremor all the time with no concrete explaination from our medical community. Now, 50 + what do I have to do to get well?
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Sep 5, 2013 @ 9:21 pm
I was stationed at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico from 1963 to 1965 and our base was fogged 3 times a week for the entire time spent there! (Tropical Island) I also escorted DDT fogging trucks thru restricted areas (I had clearance, they did not) Today I suffer from stage 4 bladder cancer, VA states DDT not known to cause cancer but I know DDT caused my Immune system to not fight any cancer cells thus leading to my plight!
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Nov 16, 2013 @ 10:10 am
There is no doubt in my family that DDT is harmful, my uncle worked for the Park District in Pittsburg from 1952-1978 at which time he died from cancer of the bladder, he also was diagnosed with Parkinson's 2 years earlier! His job in the summers was spraying DDT from a truck several nights a week. His Doctor concluded with much testing that DDT was his end, the tissue upon autopsy showed chemicals comprised that made up the pesticide DDT! His wife brought a law suit against the City and Monsanto and was settled out of court
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Nov 16, 2013 @ 10:10 am
Agent Orange and DDT have the same elements of chemicals when DDT is mixed with Diesel Fuel, Agent Orange and DDT are banned here in the U.S. for a reason! We still get mosquitos in the summer but no longer do we see DDT Sprayers because DDT cause cancer!
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Nov 16, 2013 @ 10:10 am
Little did I know that 50 years affter my service in the USAF that I would wind up with both Bladder Cancer and Parkinsons disease due to my over exposure to DDT that was applied wit diesel fuel to give it the fogging effect which tunrs out is a deadly mixture and has been proven to have the deadly late in life causes of Cancers and Parkinsons disease. MY Neurologist and urologist and internest all accomplished doctors in their own right concur one fact that is more than likely the main cause of both of my deadly diseases and I'm now in a battle with the VA for justice to be done. Also of great impotance is that we were instructed to us teh very volitile and toxic chemicle TCE to clean our duty truck and cars. SO as a obedient airman to orders I am today suffering the deadly effects of following orders. Dave Albanese USAF 1961-1965 coinace@aol.com
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Nov 17, 2013 @ 7:07 am
I have been fighting with the VA since Dec 2009 for service connection exposure to Agent Orange while serving at Udorn RTAFB, Thaiand. I have diabetes II and prostate cancer. AO was sprayed all over the base and especially on the perimeter fence line where I spent a large time tending to my duties. Yet, the VA still spills out denials one after the other. The fate of us who served, us dying from their actions is still being covered up for the sake of the God almighty dollar. Yes, AO and DDT contain the same banned substances that cause a variety of cancers.
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Nov 20, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
It's enough that our troops fight the human enemies but to fight the VA for being poisoned by AO and DDT by our own government is ridiculous! 7% of Americans are veterans protecting 93% of Americans! DDT and AO Kill!
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Nov 20, 2013 @ 10:22 pm
Label on both DDT & Diesel Fuel states "May be fatal if swallowed" I think if you can die from those, then you probably have a good chance of getting cancer. Take care of our "Veterans" MR. Veterans Affairs!
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Nov 22, 2013 @ 8:08 am
DDT truck sprayers had a manifold that would heat up so hot that when the mixed liquids of DDT and Diesel would contact the manifold it would smoke thus giving a heavy fogging effect to overwhelm insects! It seems to me that a cocktail of that mixture would overwhelm just about any living thing and surely promote all kinds of cancers including Bladder! The combustion point of Diesel fuel is much lower then gasoline, thus no fire or explosions!
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Nov 23, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
I was at NKP Thailand 1972-1973 a Security police on the perimeter. I filed a claim for Agent Orange and was denied. I complained to my senator and the director of the Regional office called me and told I have DIRECT EXPOSURE to agent orange. I have many health problems such as Ischemia, Anemia, COPD and I do not smoke! The Director gave me 10% for hearing and 50% PTSD only after I proved the PTSD as they could not verify it. The doctors I was sent to was outside the VA and The VA sent me there. The problem is the quacks at the VA will not admit to the Agent Orange as it is not the job and they have no training on Agent Orange. What a Joke!! People are dying and the government could care less.
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Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:10 am
I have been doing a LOT of research on DDT. I cannot find even ONE conclusive, properly executed study proving that DDT, when used in reasonable amounts, causes harm to humans. People that ATE DDT had no short term or long term effects! What I did find was poorly done study after study of inconclusive results. I also found that banning DDT was responsible for the deaths of over 500,000,000 people. I found political agendas for banning DDT. I also found that people will not listen to reason if they thing that DDT has caused their health issues.

I suggest that anyone with any intellectual honesty research BOTH SIDES of this issue, like I did. The government and the environmentalists have a LOT of blood on their hands.
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May 13, 2014 @ 9:09 am
I thought that this was a topic still discussed today because of its impact on our world and enviornment. This artical was very helpful
Bonnie Meyer
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May 29, 2014 @ 12:00 am
As a child in rural Ohio in the 1950'a, my father regularly sprayed DDT on the cattle. I recall the smell. I currently have osteoarthritis in my shoulder, have had both hips replaced in the past - first in 2001 and the second in 2010 which has caused many problems. My brother is a 15 year survivor of pancreatic cancer, my older sister died of multiple myeloma in 2010 and my younger sister died of ALS in 2010.(that was familial, has affected several family members). My older brother apparently has no particular problems and will soon turn 82. I take many supplements and seem to be healthy other than the previously mentioned problems.
Frances Newbold
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Sep 14, 2014 @ 4:04 am
I am wondering about the connection between DDT and ALS. My younger brother (58 yrs) just died from it. We, as kids, used to run behind the DDT truck during the summers on the Jersey shore. And I read recently that ALS is prevalent in people who were in the military. I have been reading a lot from this forum about those in the military who had to use DDT or were continually exposed to it and now have health problems. Also my Dad died from multiple myeloma, and my step mother from cancer. They both moved to the Jersey shore in the late 1960's when they were still spraying DDT for mosquitoes. Our/their house was only about 30 feet from the trucks spraying on the road! I fear that our generation will not live as long as their parents due to the use of toxic chemicals in our childhood. Did Monsanto make DDT?
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Oct 21, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
I was lucky - as the dependent of a chief in the Navy, we had bikes to ride behind the mosquito truck every day when we were in Guam (late 1950's). As I recall, almost every kid on base rode behind the truck - you couldn't see your hand in front of your face! When the base was completely sprayed you pedaled off to the enlisted men's club for soda. Our next stop was Morocco - not so bad because the bug truck didn't spray every day - we still went to the enlisted men's club for soda though after the truck made its rounds.
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May 7, 2015 @ 8:08 am
Thankyou for this article it is helping me to learn more about DDT. I am learning about this topic in school.
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May 8, 2015 @ 7:07 am
I am TOTALLY against the use of DDT. I don't like how it kills animals. It's not fair. I'm learning about this topic in my ELA class. I don't like what I'm hearing about what it does to animals. Sure it wipes out malaria but please, there HAS to be something else you can use!
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May 18, 2015 @ 11:11 am
ddt is bad and i think it was the beganing of all the problems with birds
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May 18, 2015 @ 12:12 pm
i would like to know what other insecticides can cause health problems
Janet Hammill
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May 20, 2015 @ 5:05 am
While living in a tropical country, the residential area was fogged with DDT right on evening meal times several times per week. The fog ascended up through our louvred highset houses. It was all of 1974 and until May 1975. I developed skin itches and vitiligo and have never stopped itching. Over the year it has almost driven me crazy especially under elastic where my bra and panties fitted, under my armpits and genitals. This persists with no let up. A health young woman at the time I was unable to fall pregnant and am wondering if that was because DDT is a known endocrine disruptor. If anyone could offer any advice please email me via jmtrindall@gmail.com. Much appreciated.
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May 22, 2015 @ 8:08 am
DDT is a subtance that can be destotey by people and only needes the people on this website to kill DDT. GOOD thing that DDT is band in the USA. AND ALSO HAPPY MERORIAL DAY
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May 22, 2015 @ 9:09 am
wassup ddt people? DDT is good and so is getting drunk
hobo 2
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May 22, 2015 @ 9:09 am
what is up hobo 2 i think DDT is bad for people and u are wrong.
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May 29, 2015 @ 8:08 am
Really good article for telling what D.D.T is good for.
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Jun 3, 2015 @ 9:09 am
um if my parents were exposed to DDT would i possibly have any sort of cancer
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Sep 17, 2015 @ 7:07 am
I grew up in New Castle Delaware where I remember airplanes and the trucks spraying for DDT. I am one of ten children, there are three out of 10 children in my family (in our fifties) now suffering from tremor-nerve conditions. I am interested in learning as much as I possibly to see if there is any connection and if DDT could be a responsible factor. Anyone with any additional information please feel free to email me, I am concerned for my siblings as well as myself.
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Apr 11, 2016 @ 9:09 am
it helps alot with all my school work about DDT really great websit
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Apr 18, 2016 @ 10:10 am
So basically DDT caused more that cancer. It caused bladder cancer, type 2 diabetes, health problems, immune systems problems, stomach problems, brain problems, peripheral neuropathy, Immungloblin Difficency, precancers polyos, rashs, cuts that wont heal until about 2 weeks, and Parkinsons disease. There might be more but thats what i got from all of the comments and what they got from breathing in DDT.
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Apr 20, 2016 @ 5:05 am
I inhaled ddt vapour during fumigation, I'm now coughing seriously. I've seen the doctor but still no improvement after three weeks. what is the remedy
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May 10, 2016 @ 10:10 am
This is very helpful to information for my project so thank you person who wrote this :)
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May 16, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
I like this article I think that it tells me a lot about DDT
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May 19, 2016 @ 11:11 am
i think DDt is bad and this article helped me to confirm my thought!!
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May 25, 2016 @ 7:07 am
the article is great.It helped me with my school work
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Jun 6, 2016 @ 9:09 am
DDT was mainly created for less Malaria deaths but in reality it is killing many species.
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Jun 6, 2016 @ 10:10 am
This article was very helpful for me because it helped me tell the differences from the consequences and the benefits of DDT.
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Mar 30, 2017 @ 1:13 pm
Thank you this really helped with my DDT essay that we have been doing
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May 15, 2017 @ 9:09 am
This article helped me on a assignment that I need to do.
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May 26, 2017 @ 10:10 am
DDT has its highs and lows. But all of the people dying from malaria I feel the benefits outweigh the consequences. We should reduce the amount being sprayed but, spray just enough to kill the mosquitoes and keep humans and animals safe
Malaika Williams
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May 30, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
This is giving me more information for my ELA class cause we are learning about DDT.
K. Carter
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May 30, 2017 @ 1:13 pm
this helps because im researching it and it has claims why is it harmful
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Feb 13, 2018 @ 8:08 am
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Apr 5, 2018 @ 9:09 am
This helped me a lot for my class for DDT! Thanks!
I’m Darkness
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Apr 17, 2018 @ 10:10 am
Thanks this helped me a lot for my class project thanks alot
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May 16, 2018 @ 1:13 pm
Thanks this helped a lot for my school work. I'm glad DDT isn't aloud anymore. that would not be safe.

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