What is DDT: DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is a pesticide once widely used to control insects in agriculture and insects that carry diseases such as malaria.
DDT is a white, crystalline solid with no odour or taste. Its use in the U.S. was banned in 1972 because of damage to wildlife, but is still used in some countries.
This ad for “Penn Salt Chemicals” from 1947 shows a range of dangerous applications for now-illegal DDT, from agricultural sprays to household pesticides.
Particularly disturbing is the image of a mother and infant, above the caption stating that DDT “helps make healthier, more comfortable homes.” Not quite.
While effective in eliminating dangerous mosquitoes that carry malaria, DDT also has a variety of hazardous effects:
Especially among young children, the chemical has been shown to damage the nervous, immune, endocrine, and neurological systems, not to mention its devastating influence on the natural environment.
The spread of DDT across mid-century America is mirrored today by the success of Monsanto (one of the companies that originally manufactured DDT) in placing its genetically modified products on store shelves before researchers have a full understanding of their larger ecological impacts.