Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Silent Spring: DDT's Uses and Consequences

By Anthony Smith

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring brought up many issues, including the use of the chemical DDT. For one, DDT is clinically proven to be harmful to humans. So the campaign against it is one that clearly has a place in society.

However, with that said, the main use for DDT is to spray as an insecticide, mainly for the use of controlling the mosquito population. Carson was sensitive in her writing to the fact that mosquitos have been carrying malaria. On the other hand, Carson was arguing against the use of a chemical that fought a disease that was harmful to humans. So we have to look at the issue from two angles.

One, how many people in the world were killed from the malaria disease prior to DDT’s use, and two, how many people died as a result of being harmed from DDT exposure. But it was made clear by Carson that the heavy use of DDT was now causing mosquitos to become resistant to the chemical. Because the science wasn’t as far along as today, the decrease in the effectiveness of DDT must mean one thing: use more DDT. Carson had a very strong argument against this.

While an argument can be formulated that Carson was advocating the ceasing of the use of DDT, if you read carefully enough, she never actually states she wants to completely stop the use of it. She actually advocates for the awareness of preventing insect-born diseases. She merely advocates for spraying a minimal amount of the chemical so that the mosquitos would not become resistant to the chemical. You can compare this to antibiotics in humans. Yes they are effective, but too much of them causes your body to become resistant to the drug. Using as little as possible is something that needed to be done to successfully combat the disease and the population of mosquitos.

I wholeheartedly agree with the message Carson was trying to get across, because looking back 50 years after its original publication, the book conveyed messages that are indeed an effective method to combat the problems it raised.

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