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La storia del DDT

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Due articoli di Medium e dello Science History Institute parlano della storia del DDT, una storia complessa che comprende tanto grandi vittorie come l’eradicazione della malaria dai paesi dal clima temperato, che hanno garantito a Paul Herman Müller il premio Nobel per la medicina nel 1948, quanto altrettanto grandi problematiche ambientali legate al meccanismo di azione dell’insetticida e alla sua persistenza nell’ambiente.

Dall’articolo di Medium:

This chemical was first synthesized by Othmar Zeidler in 1874 but its insecticidal qualities were not discovered until 1939 by Paul Muller (DDT 2021). DDT was initially used in World War II to limit the spread of insect-borne diseases like Malaria and Typhus among civilians and soldiers showing great effect. Thus, resulting in Muller being awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods via opening sodium ion channels in insect neurons causing the neurons to fire spontaneously and creating spasms (A sudden involuntary muscular contraction).  After the war, DDT became available for public sale and was quickly applied to agriculture since it was less costly and harmful than arsenic-based insecticides.

Dall’articolo del Science History Institute:

DDT’s powerful ability to control disease made the pesticide a hero of the war, and its development by American scientists still stands as proof that the United States earned its superpower status in large part through its scientific and technological prowess. The public’s acceptance of the chemical captures American postwar faith in scientific expertise. And its vilification by environmentalists serves as a powerful and lasting illustration of the baby boomer generation’s antiauthoritarian turn. Here, in short, is one chemical whose story illustrates some of the most profound social and cultural shifts in 20th-century U.S. history.
[…] In wartime DDT had saved lives, and it had done so by inflicting easily accepted collateral damage. In peacetime, however, DDT’s negative effects on beneficial insects, birds, and fish warranted renewed consideration.

Della storia del DDT parla anche lo Standford Journal of Public Health:

DDT was closely linked with military progress and almost universally heralded when it was formally made available for general use in 1944. Time called DDT “one of the great scientific discoveries of World War II.” Crediting the chemical with stopping a typhus epidemic in Naples, the magazine predicted that it “promises to wipe out the mosquito and malaria, to liquidate the household fly, cockroach and bedbug.
[…] Less than a year after Time announced in its original 1944 story that “censorship was lifted” from DDT science, it ran another article called “DDT Dangers.” “The new wonder insecticide,” Time wrote in 1945, “may be a two edged sword that harms while it helps.” Although the article and other publications like it were not explicitly critical of DDT, they were a departure from the feverish celebration of prior years.
[…] Even today, DDT’s legacy remains polarizing. While the environmentalist movement often hails Carson and her allies as founders of their crusade to protect the natural world, many people are highly critical of efforts to curtail the use of DDT.

JSTORDaily si occupa di come il DDT ha quasi fatto scomparire il falco pellegrino:

The recent news about the stunning decline in North American bird populations should remind us that we’ve been in similar situations before. A century ago, laws were enacted to stop the wanton slaughter of migratory birds for the fashion industry, which used feathers and even whole birds to decorate hats. And then, about fifty years ago, people began to realize that raptors like the Bald Eagle, Osprey, and Peregrine Falcon were disappearing.


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