Pollution and Wastes

How did DDT affect the environment?

Although DDT was synthesized as early as 1874 by Othmar Zeidler (1859–1911), it was the Swiss chemist Paul Müller (1899–1965) who recognized its insecticidal properties in 1939. He was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his development of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethene, or DDT. Unlike the arsenic-based compounds then in use, DDT was effective in killing insects and seemed not to harm plants and animals. In the following 20 years it proved to be effective in controlling disease-carrying insects (mosquitoes that carry malaria and yellow fever, and lice that carry typhus) and in killing many plant crop destroyers. Publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 alerted scientists to the detrimental effects of DDT. Increasingly, DDT-resistant insect species and the accumulative hazardous effects of DDT on plant and animal life cycles led to its disuse in many countries during the 1970s.


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