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The Dangers of Pesticides

DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane) is one pesticide that has been unquestionably labeled hazardous to our health. It has been linked to cancer and is actually banned from all use in America now.

DDT was widely used in the 1960's. It's all-time peak came in 1963 when 61 million pounds of DDT were sprayed across the U.S. The first major opposition to the spraying of DDT came with Rachel Carson's well-known book, "Silent Spring" in 1962. By 1968, many states had decided to ban the use of the pesticide. By 1972, the government had banned all use of it in the U.S.

Today, the U.S. does not produce or supply DDT. Other regions of the world like Africa, Central and South America still spray DDT and compounds derived from it to help control diseases spread by insects, such as malaria. Since some of our food is imported from countries still using the pesticide, the FDA monitors imported foods for traces of DDT and other hazardous substances. Just what's so bad about DDT?

If a farmer sprays DDT on his crops, eventually, a rodent eats one of the DDT covered plants. The DDT is then stored in the fatty tissues of the rodent. Maybe a bird catches and eats the rodent. The DDT comes with the package and is stored in the fat of the bird.

The same bird also eats a fish from a nearby creek; one that contains runoff from the farmer's crops, and unfortunately DDT. Now all the DDT from the fish is also stored within the bird. The bird is caught and eaten by a female human. All the DDT from the plant, the rodent, bird and fish is stored in her fatty tissue. The woman has a baby and one of the mother's first gifts to it is a portion of her DDT. Throughout the son or daughter's life, even more DDT will accumulate as he or she continues to ingest contaminated foods. Since it is a carcinogen, the individual may have a greater chance of developing cancer.

Remember, DDT is extremely persistent so even though we don't spray it now, it was sprayed all over the country for about three decades and is definitely still around.

DDT is not the only pesticide that causes problems. Several others are made from compounds that are derived from it and are known to be carcinogic as well. Examples of these are malathion and diazinon. Both are highly toxic. Fortunately, they break down very quickly in the environment to form nontoxic compounds. Carbamates are another group of pesticides which are presumably not-carcinogenic, but still pose dangers to our health.

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