TIME Magazine, April 11, 1949, p. 70:|
SCIENCE: Worse Than Insects?
When dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was first offered to the general public in 1945, the U.S. Army and Public Health Service warned that the wonder insecticide had better be used cautiously. No one knew much about DDT's long-range effect on human beings or on the balance of nature.
The warnings have often been repeated in technical journals. But the public, delighted with DDT, kept right on spraying closets, beds, kitchens, and household pets. Whole communities were engulfed in artificially created DDT fogs. Gardeners and dairy farmers found it a quick means of destroying insect pests. By 1947, the manufacture of DDT had boomed into a $30 million industry.
Last week, Columnist-Crusader Albert Deutsch of the New York Post raised a hue & cry against the dangers of DDT, with a series of articles called "DDT and You." Deutsch based his original assertions on research by Manhattan's Dr. Morton Biskind, printed in The American Journal of Digestive Diseases. Deutsch contended that the mysterious ailment called virus X, which rose to epidemic proportions in Los Angeles about two years ago, has the same symptoms as DDT poisoning and may be traced to indiscriminate use of the chemical. X disease, which has attacked herds of cattle in 37 states, also looks suspiciously like DDT poisoning. What's more, Deutsch said, DDT is getting into milk products and foodstuffs in dangerous amounts.
No one stepped forward to deny that careless use of DDT is dangerous. At least six cases of fatal DDT poisoning have been reported; numerous non-fatal cases are on record. DDT has, indeed, been getting into dairy products: the Department of Agriculture recently issued a directive recommending that farmers stop using the chemical in dairy barns, on milk cows, or on fodder destined for consumption by milk cows.
At week's end, the Deutsch articles had prompted health officials to some replies and explanations. The main theme of the experts: there is no cause for alarm. No dangerously contaminated samples of milk have yet been found. Further, said a U.S. Public Health official: "Statements that DDT is responsible for the so-called virus X disease of man and X disease of cattle are totally without foundation. Both of these diseases were recognized before the utilization of DDT as an insecticide." Nonetheless, one Department of Agriculture warning was repeated: "DDT should not be used for insect control on dairy cows... Presence of the chemical in milk would be contrary to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act."