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During the 1950s and 60s, scientists began to question the widespread use of DDT, a pesticide used indiscriminately for agricultural purposes because of its efficiency in killing insects. Researchers were discovering that contact with the chemical was leading to the decline of many species of predatory birds, and was a major factor in causing cancer and reproductive defects in humans. DDT was affecting ecosystems in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and was contaminating countless species of animals by working its way up the food chain. In 1962, Rachel Carson famously wrote about the plight in Silent Spring, and in 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the substance. The road to banning DDT, however, was far from straightforward. The grassroots movement, which was led by a group of ten scientists who created Environmental Defense Fund, was opposed early and often by various corporations and political groups. These groups claimed that EDF was based on junk science, and that its founding scientists were simply radicals. One of these scientists was Charles Wurster, and in DDT Wars Wurster gives us the story of the many scientific and legal maneuvers EDF made in order to have DDT banned from legal use as a pesticide. Many issues swirled as the battle waged: was DDT's use in controlling malaria in ravaged countries a reason t to ban it as a pesticide? And what legal precedents would be set, once the substance was banned? Wurster breaks down the multifaceted battle from start to finish, showing us the crucial turning points and the many ramifications of EDF's victory. Though its existence was threatened early on, Environmental Defense Fund's fiftieth anniversary is approaching, and the organization has w morphed into a leader on many different environmental activist fronts. DDT Wars is the dramatic story of the original issue that EDF was founded to fight, and is one of the strongest examples we have of grassroots environmentalism affecting positive change.
Charles F. Wurster is a founding member of the Environmental Defense Fund. He is Associate Professor of Environmental Toxicology, State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Charles F. Wurster
Oxford University Press
Date of Publication
Geography & Earth Science: Textbooks & Study Guides