Ddt and the American Century

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Connor Lund
Ruben Flores
SOC 332
11 May 2013

DDT in America, Mexico, and Italy
In the 20th century Malaria was becoming a growing issue as a result of the anopheles mosquitoes. The outbreak of mosquitoes was also having a detrimental effect on plant life, which in turn was polluting the economy in areas all over the world. Originally public health officials believed the eradication of mosquitoes with some form of pesticide would forever eliminate this epidemic. “DDT was in expensive, easy to produce, effective, and seemingly harmless to people, and could be used in a variety of different settings” (Kinkela 1). This popular chemical that was widely used in the United States was surprisingly not produced by American scientists, making it interesting that DDT became such an American technology. A Swiss native Paul Miller, who worked for a Swiss chemical company at the time, developed DDT in 1939. DDT became attractive to the United States just after the start of the Second World War, when global influence was extremely important. At the time the American government realized that DDT could be used to influence the entire world to alleviate many of their pain and suffering, as a result of the infectious mosquitoes. To pitch the idea of DDT use world wide America advertised that this chemical the healing potential of this chemical, as well as the boost it could provide to countries’ economies by improving the overall yield of their crops. The benefit that had going for them at the time was the fact that its widespread use during World War Two revealed little evidence that the chemical was harmful to humans, which masked any long-term dangers of DDT. What is interesting is that even today some individuals still argue that it is an excellent powder that saved the world. Many of these individuals we were apart of the countless Americans that “bought, sprayed, dusted, fogged, and applied DDT as the first defense against insect pests” (Kinkela, 4). Many country officials viewed DDTs global influence during the Second World War, particularly in the counties of Mexico and Italy, as a saving element to both their people and their economy despite the chemicals harmful effects and the opinion of the general public.

DDT’s role in Mexico developed after the Mexican government realized that there was a major problem in their countries agriculture yield as the result of insect invasion on the crops. It also was affecting the people of their country with the widespread epidemic of malaria moving in on their cities. As a result of this the IHD (International Health Division) began the mosquito eradication campaign, which was aimed at eliminating mosquitos and curing their people along with their agricultural. In addition to malaria affecting the people of Mexico poor nutrition and hunger were both leading factors in diseases throughout the country. As a result a major strategy to improve these diseases was the implantation of insect control to improve the overall quality of health of food. To achieve their goals the Mexican government realized that they must implement similar strategies as the United States. For Mexico, “increasing crop yield was the simply the first step in a much larger political and economic revolution”. (Kinkela p. 66). George Harrar, a plant pathologist who was a part of the Rockefeller Team, led a team in Mexico to help out with these issues. The Rockefeller foundation is a philanthropy that was founded in the United States with a mission aimed at providing innovative solutions to world issues in areas such as our earth’s eco system and health of the people.

Although the United States production of DDT expanded following the start of World War two, the overall spreading of DDT in Mexico was “slow and disorganized” (Kinkela 69). It was almost as if America had no plan of action for the distribution of the chemical throughout the country and the policy makers in turn were expecting that America had a decent...
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