DDT

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108.5 °C

260 °C (decomp.)

DDT (from its trivial name, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides.

First synthesized in 1874, DDT's insecticidal properties were not discovered until 1939, and it was used with great success in the second half of World War II to control malaria and typhus among civilians and troops. The Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948 "for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods."[2] After the war, DDT was used as an agricultural insecticide, and soon its production and use skyrocketed.[3]

In 1962, American biologist Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring. The book cataloged the environmental impacts of indiscriminate DDT use in the US and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on the environment or human health. The book suggested that DDT and other pesticides cause cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. Its publication was a signature event in the birth of the environmental movement. It produced a large public outcry that led to a 1972 ban in the US.[4] DDT was subsequently banned for agricultural use worldwide under the Stockholm Convention, but limited, controversial use in disease vector control continues.[5]

Along with the Endangered Species Act, the US DDT ban is cited by scientists as a major factor in the comeback of the bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, from near-extinction in the contiguous US.[6]

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