Is DDT Dangerous?

DDT, the chemical used as a bug and mosquito repellent in farming, has been pretty controversial since started being more widely used in the 1950s & 60s. People believe that it's been a cause of cancer and possibly worse.  Recently I read some research to the contrary:
Despite [DDT's] overuse, there was no surge in cancer or any other human injury. Scientists found no evidence that spraying DDT seriously hurt people. 
It did cause some harm: It threatened bird populations by thinning the shells of their eggs. 
In 1962, the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson make the damage famous and helped instill our fear of chemicals. The book raised some serious questions about the use of DDT, but the legitimate nature of those questions was lost in the media feeding frenzy that followed. DDT was a "Killer Chemical!" and the press was off on another fear campaign. 
It turns out DDT itself wasn't the problem -- the problem was that much too much was sprayed... 
In the late 1950s we sprayed DDT indiscriminately, but it only takes a tiny amount to prevent the spread of malaria. If sprayed on the walls of an African hut, a small amount will keep mosquitoes at bay for a year. That makes it a wonderful malaria fighter. But today DDT is rarely used to fight malaria because environmentalists' demonization of it causes others to shun it.
It's interesting how media coverage of a chemical can influence people's views on it more than science can. If the above paragraphs are true, it's tragic, considering how many people die of malaria each year...

[source: Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity by John Stossel]


  1. Millions--millions--of people have died in Africa because DDT was banned. A few years ago on television I saw a scientist who was pleading for the reintroduction of DDT. He covered his whole body with DDT powder to show that he did not consider it dangerous!

  2. Thanks! I always thought DDT was a horrible chemical, and I wasn't aware of the scientific arguments to the contrary.