Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 9 years ago

how did the pollution probe campaign against the use of DDT?

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  • 8 years ago
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    Studies of alligators in Florida swamps have found extensive oestrogenation, possibly due to high levels of DDT exposure. Many male crocodiles in the area have deformed genitalia and feminized bodily features, while their eggs are showing high rates of infertility and abnormal fetal development. Some researchers believe that this is echoed in the human population. Fertility studies in Scandinavia, where DDT was widely used to control pests, have found that the average male sperm count has dropped by almost 50% since DDT started to be used, while there is an increased rate of certain cancers of the reproductive organs compared to former years; however, these studies have not demonstrated a causative link between DDT and other effects.

    In 1962 Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was published. The book argued that pesticides, and especially DDT, were poisoning both wildlife and the environment and also endangering human health. Nonetheless, the public reaction to Silent Spring launched the modern environmental movement, and DDT became a prime target of the growing anti-chemical and anti-pesticide movements during the 1960s.

    DDT was first banned from use in Norway and Sweden in 1970 (it was not banned in the United Kingdom until 1984). During the late 1960's, pressure grew within the United States for a ban on DDT. Initially, the EPA's first Administrator William Ruckelshaus resisted an outright ban, citing studies from the EPA's internal staff that stated that DDT was not an imminent danger to human health and wildlife. However, the findings of these staff members were criticized, as they were performed mostly by economic entonomologists inherited from the United States Department of Agriculture, whom many people felt were biased towards agribusiness and tended to minimize concerns about human health and wildlife. The decision not to ban thus created public controversy, and in January 1971, the US District Court of Appeals ordered Ruckelshaus to begin the deregistration procedure for DDT.

    In the summer of 1972, Ruckelshaus, after reviewing the evidence by internal scientists, outside DDT study groups, and public hearings announced a ban in 1972 on virtually all uses of DDT in the U.S., where it is classified in EPA Toxicity Class II. The rationale for the ban was largely based on the controversial principle that potential damage to human health outweighs economic interests.

    The ban is widely seen as contributing to the recovery of predator bird populations in the United States. Despite the U.S. ban on usage, chemical factories in the U.S. continued to manufacture and export DDT to Third World countries for years.

    The 1970s ban in the U.S. took place amid a climate of public mistrust of the scientific and industrial community, following such fiascos as Agent Orange, Love Canal, and use of the hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES). In understanding the public policy landscape that led to the ban, it is important to realize that there were essentially no restrictions in the U.S. on pesticide manufacture and use during the 1940s and 1950s. This, coupled with the fact that fewer people in the '60s were as concerned with environmentalism as people are today, led to impure products, little knowledge of any risks on the part of the pesticide users, overapplication, and ignorance of any long-term environmental damage that might occur. In addition, the fact that the bald eagle was placed on the endangered species list in large part because of the overuse of DDT was also a strong factor leading to its banning in the United States.

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