History of DDT


A German chemist named Zeidler invented DDT. But Paul Muller first discovered it's ability to control insects. DDT is a mixture of dichorodiphenyltrichlordethane isomers, it is composed of fourteen carbon atoms, nine hydrogen, and five chlorine atoms. It is produced by mixing chloralhydrate and chlorobenzene.

DDT''s first major accomplishment was to eliminate a typhus epidemic in Naples in 1943 by killing lice that spread the disease. It also killed mosquitoes that spread malaria in Greece and Ceylon. The World Health Organization says that DDT helped save the lives of approximately twenty five million people. Because of it's ability to save lives, Paul Muller was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1948.

In 1962 Rachel Carson's book, Silent Springs ,came out and raised a lot of doubts about the safety of DDT. Then scientists learned that DDT caused birds to lay eggs with thin shells or no shell at all.

The use of DDT has been banned in the US and most of the western countries. The EPA reported a ninety percent reduction of DDT in Lake Michigan by 1978 in result of the ban. Although it was banned it is still found in almost everybody. In the US the average amount of DDT eaten by one person daily in 1981 was 2.24 milligrams with a leafy vegetable containing the most. People who have ingested large amounts of DDT have experienced sweating, excitability, headaches, nausea, tremors and seizures.

One time, because DDT looks like white powder, it was mistaken for flour and used in making pancakes which caused the only fatal poisoning reported.

Matt Hoemann



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