Google's doodle today:
This is to celebrate Rachel Carson's birthday, who would be 107 today. She wrote "Silent Sprint" that got DDT outlawed. I highly recommend John Berlau's "Eco Freaks" book detailing the damage the removal of DDT has wrought. Here is some of his findings:
3. But DDT was once nicknamed “Double Death Twice” in the popular press. What happened to people exposed to higher than normal amounts of DDT?
Studies show they turned out fine, and the experiences of some folks makes me wonder if exposure to DDT actually prolongs your life. Joseph Jacobs was a chemist directing the effort to mass-produce DDT to protect World War II soldiers from insect-borne disease. In the rush to get the first shipment out the door, a valve that Jacobs happened to be standing under was accidentally opened, and Jacobs was soon covered with hot DDT. Jacobs did indeed die – more than 60 years later at the tender young age of 88. He would go on to build a top engineering firm, write books, and have a family. But he always considered his role in the early production of DDT as one of his greatest accomplishments. The story is same for others, including one man who is still alive at 97. (A lot longer than Carson lived. Maybe she should have had some DDT herself. -- Yoda)
4. But what about birds and forests. Doesn’t DDT do a lot of damage there?
DDT can be harmful if used in excess, but application of DDT has also saved many trees from insect infestations and may be partly responsible for an increase in bird populations. Starting in the late ‘40s, it was sprayed on elm trees to successfully stave off predatory beetles spreading Dutch Elm disease. After DDT was banned, the U.S. population of elm trees fell by more than half, and many American towns have few of the elms that once lined their streets. DDT also saved Oregon’s “old-growth” Douglas fir trees, home for the celebrated spotted owl, from devastation by tussock moths in 1974.
In some of the instances where DDT was alleged to have killed birds, other factors – from excess hunting to mercury poisoning – were more likely the real culprits. Further, the bird population would often increase in areas spread with DDT as there were fewer insects to spread bird diseases. Ironically, today the mosquito-borne West Nile virus is killing many of the birds – including robins, condors, eagles and peregrine falcons – alleged to have been harmed by DDT. Yet greens still oppose most spraying programs that use any type of pesticide to fend off mosquitoes.
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