The 1962 book "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson was instrumental at affecting public opinion against DDT and other pesticides culminating on banning DDT all over the world. While Carlson has many detractors, ecology militants would label them as being mercenaries at service of industrial interests.

From "Bring Back DDT, and Science With It!" by Marjorie Mazel Hecht:

The campaign to ban DDT got its start with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962. Carson’s popular book was a fraud. She played on people’s emotions, and to do so, she selected and falsified data from scientific studies, as entomologist Dr. J. Gordon Edwards has documented in his analysis of the original scientific studies that Carson cited.

From "DDT: A Case Study in Scientific Fraud" by Dr. J. Gordon Edwards:

The chemical compound that has saved more human lives than any other in history, DDT, was banned by order of one man, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Public pressure was generated by one popular book and sustained by faulty or fraudulent research. Widely believed claims of carcinogenicity, toxicity to birds, anti-androgenic properties, and prolonged environmental persistence are false or grossly exaggerated. The worldwide effect of the U.S. ban has been millions of preventable deaths..

All my life I was told DDT (and pesticides in general) accumulates on the body across the whole food chain with severe consequences to the environment.

Is DDT really significantly less harmful than the current EPA official position?

[update] I'm new here, would appreciate if you hint why are you downvoting so I can improve my questions.

  • 1
    The downvotes were likely because of some users not being able to separate political persuasion and the curiosity/desire for information this site stands for; at least that is my guess. Dec 12, 2014 at 0:46
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    @gnometorule I downvoted (instead of voting to close) for the reasons which I gave in my since-deleted comment; and I reversed my downvote after the question was edited/improved. Congratulation to Paulo for having the fortitude to edit/improve the question repeatedly. There are currently no downvotes against this question.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:53
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    What do you mean exactly by "harmful"? For example, if DDT is as toxic as EPA says but its banning really caused more deaths due to malaria etc. than the deaths that would have been caused by its usage (I believe this an other notable claim, if not outright prooved), would you consider it harmful or not?
    – Bakuriu
    Dec 12, 2014 at 17:42
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    @Bakuriu The OP (i.e. Paulo) isn't required to understand/interpret the claim. If the "notable claim" in question isn't clear, then it's the answers which should clarify that. Here I think that "harmful" is intended as a short-hand for whatever the stated reasons were for EPA's ban.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 12, 2014 at 17:52
  • @Bakuriu: by harmful I mean "claims of carcinogenicity, toxicity to birds, anti-androgenic properties, and prolonged environmental persistence" as in the quote from Dr. J. Gordon Edwards. Dec 12, 2014 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


DDT is quite nasty. Here are is an example of a 2010 study about the toxicity of DDT metabolites -- after they have been found in measurable concentrations in Germany. It is an in-vitro study, so take it with caution:

All the DDT metabolites tested did not exhibit dioxin-like activities in RTL-W1 cells, but show cytotoxic and estrogenic activities. Based on the results of the in vitro assays used in our study and on the reported concentrations of DDT metabolites in contaminated sediments, such substances could, in the future, pose interference with the normal reproductive and endocrine functions in various organisms exposed to these chemicals. Consequently, there is an urgent need to examine more comprehensively the risk of environmental concentrations of the investigated DDT metabolites using in vivo studies. However, this should be paralleled also by periodic evaluation and monitoring of the current levels of the DDT metabolites in environmental matrices.

Bernhard Wetterauer, Mathias Ricking, Jens C. Otte, et al. Toxicity, dioxin-like activities, and endocrine effects of DDT metabolites—DDA, DDMU, DDMS, and DDCN. Environmental Science and Pollution Research Volume 19, Issue 2 , pp 403-415

There aren't many studies on human becase... it's a known poison. So what studies we have are either on other mammals, or on humans that have been inadvertently contaminated with it (DDT plant workers for example)

Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of DDT and related compounds in a variety of animal species, but the human data are somewhat limited. Most of the information on health effects in humans comes from studies of workers in DDT-manufacturing plants or spray applicators who had occupational exposure to DDT over an extended period and also from some controlled exposure studies with volunteers. Epidemiological studies of the general population are also available. Because of limitations inherent to all epidemiological studies, disease causality cannot be determined from them; however, epidemiological studies have been conducted that allow the evaluation of the potential role of DDT and related compounds in specific health outcomes.

TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR DDT, DDE, and DDD. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES - Public Health Service - Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

The above is a great, extremely detailed and well documented article on the known effects of DDT. It is updated to very recently, and in it you can find plenty of statements that flat-out contradict Dr. Evans, like this:

Occupational exposure to DDT was associated with increased lung cancer in a case control study of the Uruguayan work force (De Stefani et al. 1996).

Also note that many health effect have been studies for many molecules in the same family, with similar effects.

In conclusion: there's no doubt that DDT has many negative health effects and its banning seems justified - this has been confirmed in many studies, including recent ones.

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