The case of DDT provides us with a very valuable lesson when it comes to pesticides and various other synthetic chemicals for that matter.
As mentioned in my article Avoiding Mosquito Bites, DDT was originally hailed as a miracle pesticide and deemed “safe”. So safe in fact that kids used to dance around in clouds of it. As with many pesticides, mosquitos became immune and then the really nasty environmental stuff started happening. DDT was largely responsible for the near extinction of the bald eagle for example. While it didn’t kill the birds, DDT cause bald eagle egg shells to become thinner. Many other bird species were also affected.
While DDT was pretty much well banned across the entire USA by 1972, even over 35 years on it can still be found in animals. According to this article on the Environmental News Network, Adelie penguins in Antarctica, still have DDT in their fatty tissues. Not only did DDT linger, but it travelled far from where it was originally used to one of the most pristine places on our planet.
pris·tine (prĭs’tēn’, prĭ-stēn’) adj. Remaining in a pure state; uncorrupted by civilization.
Given that denifition, it’s sad to say that the word “pristine” can no longer be used to describe any place on this planet, and it will be generations before it will be even remotely possible to be used accurately again. We’ve corrupted every part of our paradise – and that is beyond sad.
While technology has improved over the decades, there’s still so many times when we’re assured that a chemical is safe or used in harmless amounts; only for that reassurance to be proven incorrect at a later date. A more recent example is Bisphenol A; a plastic used for drinking/baby bottles and can linings that supposedly poses such a risk to health that some companies are scrambling to get rid of it and some governments banning it.
Given that there’s far more synthetic materials around than 50 years ago, it really makes you wonder how many DDT type time bombs are out there we aren’t aware of and which one will be the straw that broke the camel’s back environmentally speaking.
With so many of these chemicals being so persistent in the environment, perhaps there will be a day when everything is poisoned. Maybe that ecosystem meltdown has already begun, that “convergence of crises” we’ve been warned about for so long.
Let’s hope there’s still time to turn things around.