Paper Instructions

a. Explain the origin of DDT, beneficial uses, and why it is controversial. b. Outline and discuss three main areas of disagreement between Anne Platt McGinn and Donald Roberts. c. Which side do you agree with? Explain your answer.


Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is a prominent but controversial organochloride known for its insecticidal properties. Paul Hermann Muller first discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT in 1939. The chemical was first utilized during World War II to combat a typhus epidemic in Naples, Italy. The chemical was very successful and soon it was used to kill the malaria carrying mosquitoes. For instance, the cases of malaria in the United States fell from 120000 in 1934 to just 72 in the 1960s due to the application of the chemical in insecticides. In addition, the cases of yellow fever dropped to none. Muller received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1948 for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT. 

The chemical is a very controversial issue in international environmental policy. The controversy surrounding the chemical is due to its adverse environmental impacts especially when it is used on large scale. Research indicates that the agricultural use of DDT is a threat to wildlife especially birds and can cause cancer in human beings. The overwhelming evidence from studies on the effects of DDT led to a large outcry in the United States and the eventual ban on its agricultural application in the country.

McGinn (2002) argues that DDT should be banned worldwide because it is no longer effective in the fight against malaria. However, Roberts and Tren (2010) argue that malaria is still a global concern and that DDT is the most effective weapon against the disease especially in the tropical areas.

Roberts and Tren (2010) also argue that the scientific evidence relating to the environmental hazards of DDT have been grossly mis-represented. However, McGinn (2002) argues that the environmental effects of the large-scale use of DDT are serious enough to warrant the banning of its application internationally. Furthermore, McGinn (2002) opines that DDT causes health risks to human beings exposed to the chemical because of the increase in toxicity throughout the food chain. However, Roberts and Tren (2010) believe that DDT is the safest preventative measure against malaria for human populations.

I concur with McGinn (2002) on the international banning of DDT based insecticides. DDT has adverse environmental impacts that no longer warrant its use in agricultural applications. In addition, it is no longer effective in the fight against malaria around the world.


McGinn, A. (2002). Malaria, Mosquitoes, and DDT: The Toxic War against a Global Disease. WorldWatch Institute. Retrieve on 11/4/2016 from

Roberts, D. & Tren, R. (2010). The Excellent Powder: DDT’s Political and Scientific History. 


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