27. That’s how many years it took for the United States government to ban DDT for agricultural use.
27 years is how long the American people were exposed to a chemical that was later found to cause a wide variety of health problems including cancer, infertility, miscarriages, nervous system damage, liver damage, and more.
DDT was initially promoted by government and industry use as an agricultural/household pesticide. The Swiss chemist that discovered it was even awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948.
In later years, DDT was used to combat malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne human diseases for the military & civilian population. By 1950, it was a $300 million annual industry. By 1960, it jumped to $600 million.
In 1962, a woman by the name of Rachel Carlson wrote a book discussing the dangers of DDT. Her work was met with outrage and she was called “hysterical”. Does this sound familiar? Fortunately, she wasn’t alone in the fight as many others raised concerns over this chemical and its effects on health and the environment.
Finally the U.S. Department of Agriculture began regulating its use in the 1970s thanks to mounting evidence that the pesticide was no longer effective as many pest species developed a resistance to it. It was also deemed unsafedue to its environmental and toxicological effects.
Throughout the 27 years DDT was in use, there were “crazy anti-DDT” citizens and whistleblowers. But it took almost three decades, large public outcry, and an environmental movement to ban it.
Today it is widely known that DDT has negative toxicological and environmental effects and making such a statement wouldn’t be met with criticism. But those claims didn’t initially come without resistance and ridicule.
This is just one of many examples demonstrating that scientific/medical advancements should not be taken at face value as safe or effective. If parents never questioned, if citizens never challenged, and if the science was permanently settled, DDT would likely still be in use today.
Decades ago, DDT whistleblowers were likely mocked as being crazy, conspiracy theorists, or anti-science for criticizing the government, a multimillion-dollar business, and a product that was touted as doing so much “good”. But they kept on, and thankfully so.