DDT banning

DDT’s ban signaled a new political strength for the growing environmental movement.

Organic pesticides such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) came into widespread use after World War II. DDT played a major role in the Allied war effort, helping the troops control malaria and other insect-borne diseases during the war. It became so popular among returning servicemen that it was thrown at weddings in place of rice. Federally subsidized aerial spraying programs to control gypsy moths, however, led to increasing conflicts between pest control programs and organic farmers, homeowners, and environmentalists.DDT, banning of

After a series of lawsuits in New York state during the early 1960’s failed to stop the spraying, activists focused on reforming the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947. They sought to add public and environmental health considerations to the statute’s requirement that products be effective and safe for users. Rachel Carson, RachelCarson’s 1962 best seller, Silent Spring (1962)Silent Spring, argued that pesticides caused environmental damage, and Carson particularly targeted DDT. After a multiyear campaign marked by bitter division and months of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and congressional hearings, the Richard M. Nixon administration’s EPA, led by William D. Ruckelshaus, canceled the pesticide’s registration, effectively banning its use. Some antimalaria activists have challenged the ban, however, arguing that DDT is an essential element in the fight against malaria in developing countries. Use of the chemical is again increasing.

Further Reading

  • Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. 1962. Reprint. Boston: Mariner Books, 2002.
  • Dunlap, Thomas R. DDT: Scientists, Citizens, and Public Policy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981.
  • World Wildlife Fund. Resolving the DDT Dilemma: Protecting Biodiversity and Human Health. Washington, D.C.: Author, 1998.



Chemical industries

Environmental movement

Environmental Protection Agency

World War II