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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living On Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... It was 25 years ago this summer, that the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of the pesticide D-D-T.


RUDOLPH: In her landmark book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson called the chemical DDT "a grim spectre that has crept upon us almost unnoticed." Twenty-five years ago this summer the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT. First used as a pesticide in the late 1930s, it quickly became the weapon of choice to fight malaria, cholera, and other insect-borne diseases. But DDT has an insidious nature. It's highly poisonous to birds, other animals, and humans. DDT was banned in the United States after years of scientific debate. Since then, many affected species are back in record numbers. There are now more than 5,000 pairs of bald eagles, a 10-fold increase since 1962. Peregrine falcons, which numbered less than 100 in the mid-1970s, have shown a 20-fold increase. And once-threatened populations of ospreys, brown pelicans, and sea lions, are rebounding dramatically. But DDT is not a distant memory. Because the chemical decomposes slowly, traces of it still exist in soil and water. And the ban did not stop US companies from exporting DDT to other countries, where it continues to be used to fight malaria. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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