Take a trip back to the 1950s. Elvis Presley. Sock hops. Wallpaper with DDT. Wait, what? Yes, DDT made its way into the American home through such means as wallpaper and pesticide sprays. Back then, countries used DDT to fight off malaria worldwide. Farmers used it on crops to ward off insects and consumers sprayed it in the home to eliminate such nuisances as moths and beetles. Too bad exposure to the chemical results in premature births, developmental problems and cancer.
The United States eventually banned the chemical after the book, Silent Spring, questioned its relatively indiscriminate use and listed detrimental effects such as cancer and negative impacts on wildlife. On the other hand, the book came out in 1962 and the ban didn’t take place until 1972, showing the slow pace of reform. Before the ban though, companies convinced consumers to use it liberally:
Phil Allegretti, an exterminator by trade, collected the following DDT artifacts and donated them to the museum of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. They show the pesticide sprayers used back then and also ads with smiling women happily spraying CHEMICALS OF DEATH around the house. One ad even urges mothers to spray DDT in their child’s nursery for protection. Oh, how times have changed.
So interesting that we ultimately found out the harmful effects of DDT. What products do we currently use might we find to be harmful later on? Comment below.