Is DDT a biodegradable pollutant? (19 impacts of DDT) 

In this article, details will be given about DDT as a non-biodegradable pollutant. Other details covered would be: 

  • What is DDT?
  • How DDT was discovered to be harmful to life?
  • How DDT was discovered to be harmful to the environment?
  • Why was DDT banned?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • What are the impacts of non-biodegradable waste?
  • Is DDT a biodegradable pollutant?
  • FAQs

Is DDT a biodegradable pollutant?

DDT is a non-biodegradable pollutant and gets more concentrated as it travels up the food chain. It may remain in the fat deposits because it is fat soluble. 

While it persists, it may affect the environment and life. Environmental effects of DDT may include bioaccumulation, thinning of eggshells, breeding complications, and soil and aquatic toxicity. 

The health impacts may include shaking, neurological issues, tumours, psychological complications, and reproductive problems. 

What is DDT?

DDT is an insecticide that expands into dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane. The use of DDT began in the early 1940s. Since the initial use of DDT, the use of DDT skyrocketed because its applications and uses were better understood. 

DDT was found to be an effective insecticide against a number of insects such as malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne diseases. 

The effects of DDT were found to be quite working for the health and life of plants and animals. Thus, the use of DDT was linked to the protection of loss of life and crops.

The use of DDT was not only limited to livestock and crops but was also expanded to every household. 

Every household began to use DDT as an effective insecticide to ward off their homes against insecticides. You may also remember a red coloured powder bottle being used wherever insects were found. That bottle contained DDT. 

The use of DDT was also linked to an improved yield of crops and increased lifespan of livestock. Thus, DDT was related directly to economics and substantiality. 

Owing to these reasons, DDT was regarded as a miracle chemical which was created as a result of the most developed scientific endeavours of that time. 

How DDT was discovered to be harmful to life?

The use of DDT commenced somewhere in the 1940s, however, it was till the 1970s that the harmful effects of DDT were discovered. What was thought to be miraculous actually turned out to be malicious. 

It was found that DDT was a persistent pollutant because it had the capacity to remain in the living systems for many years. 

The harmful effects of DDT on water bodies were also well established after the initial discoveries post the 1970s period. 

It was found that DDT bioaccumulates in life for hundreds of years. The problem was not just with the accumulation, but also with the effects of DDT on life and the environment. 

DDT was linked to loss of life, thinning of eggshells, and even breeding failure. Thus, DDT was directly linked to harmful impacts on life and infiltrations into the food chains. 

The effects of DDT were not only limited to animal life. Human life was also severely affected by the impacts of DDT. 

These impacts included nausea, diarrhoea, irritation of the eyes, tremors, and convulsions. 

How DDT was discovered harmful to the environment?

DDT was also discovered to be harmful to the environment. This was largely because DDT was figured to be a non-biodegradable pollutant which may persist for many years. 

DDT was also linked to the issues of bioaccumulation and medical complications. However, the effects of DDT were not just limited to the health; but were also reciprocated to the environment.

DDT, other than being non-biodegradable, also was found to affect aquatic and land ecosystems. 

The degradation rate of DDT in the aquatic environment is perceived to be even greater as compared to that of land, and thus posed a long-term threat to aquatic wildlife. 

DDT may be toxic for animals like stoneflies and crayfish while also infiltrating food chains and food webs at various levels. 

Why was DDT banned? (19 impacts of DDT) 

DDT was banned in the US in 1972. The following were the major reasons behind the banning of DDT: 

  • Highly persistent pollutant
  • Eggshell thinning
  • Loss of life
  • Bioaccumulation in various ecosystems
  • Breeding failure
  • Infiltration into the food chains and food web
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Cancer
  • Reproductive problems
  • Tumours
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Neuro Complications
  • Vertigo 
  • Dizziness
  • Neurological anomalies 
  • Hypersensitivity

What is biodegradability?

In order to make a stance on the biodegradability of HDPE, it is also important to know what biodegradability is. Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste by the action of microbes. 

These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, decomposers, algae, and even protozoa. These microbes ensure that the waste generated does not accumulate and gets back to the system of life. 

That is because if there is waste accumulation, there will be negative effects of that waste accumulation which will impact all areas of our life. 

Therefore, biodegradability can also be regarded as nature’s dustbin. What is the role of a dustbin? To keep the waste segregated from the environment and make sure it does not pollute the environment. 

The role of biodegradability is very similar. Other than microbes, there are also external factors which play an important role in the biodegradation process. These may include aeration, sunlight, temperature and pressure. 

The time taken for a product or substance to biodegrade depends on the type of material and the external conditions. 

Based on biodegradability, there is a classification of waste. Waste may either be biodegradable or non-biodegradable. 

This is because not all waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. Most of the waste that is from synthetic materials produced at the expense of chemicals and human innovation is not biodegradable. 

It may take hundreds of years for such waste to degrade and therefore, it is termed non-biodegradable waste. Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include:

  • Epoxy resin
  • Synthetic polymers
  • Nylon
  • Dyneema
  • Acrylonitrile
  • Synthetic resins

These materials may take from a few hundred years to a thousand years to degrade. While they persist, they cause a plethora of problems to the environment and life. Examples of biodegradable waste may include plant waste, animal waste, manure et cetera. 

The impact of biodegradable waste on the environment is very less compared to non-biodegradable waste.

What are the impacts of non-biodegradable waste? 

This section will discuss the impacts and implications caused by the occurrence of non-biodegradable waste. These details covered in the section will, in a way, help us in building a stance on the negative impacts caused by DDT. 

Non-biodegradable waste affects the environment in a number of ways. The most prominent impact of non-biodegradable waste is the accumulation of waste. 

It is expected that the world produces more than 2 billion tons of waste. If this waste is more inclined towards non-biodegradable waste, then this waste may remain in the environment and landfills for as long as a thousand years. 

It will incapacitate the waste management endeavours and the life-carrying capacity of the Earth. Therefore, it is really important that focus must be done on the formation of biodegradable waste more than non-biodegradable waste because the former is easier to tackle and handle. 

Another impact caused by non-biodegradable waste is the emission of harmful gases including greenhouse gases. 

Most of the non-biodegradable material is made from products derived from fossil fuels. These products come at the cost of emission of harmful gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ethylene et cetera. 

These gases lead to the overall rise in global temperatures and this phenomenon is termed global warming. Global warming then, in turn, leads to other environmental anomalies. 

This is largely because the engine of the Earth is lineage and linkage. If there is a disruption in one aspect, there will be disruption in other aspects as well. 

The impact of non-biodegradable waste is not just limited to the environment. Life, in general, and humans are also greatly impacted by the occurrence of non-biodegradable waste. These effects include: 

  • Organ damage 
  • Necrosis 
  • Cancer
  • Neuro Complications
  • Developmental issues 
  • Damage to the foetus
  • Hormonal disruption 

Is DDT a biodegradable pollutant?

This section will unveil the status of DDT. It has already been established that DDT is a pollutant which is known to cause negative impacts on human health, animals, and the environment.

The question that remains is whether DDT is biodegradable or not. It has been assessed that most man-made chemicals and products are non-biodegradable because microbes are unable to break down their molecular structures. 

DDT is another example of a chemical which is non-biodegradable because it is a non-natural insecticide. It will persist for many years. 

Therefore, it can be concluded that DDT is a non-biodegradable pollutant associated with many negative environmental and life-related impacts. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that DDT is not biodegradable and gets more concentrated as it travels up the food chain. It may remain in the fat deposits because it is fat soluble. 

While it persists, it may affect the environment and life. Environmental effects of DDT may include bioaccumulation, thinning of eggshells, breeding complications, and soil and aquatic toxicity. 

The health impacts may include shaking, neurological issues, tumours, psychological complications, and reproductive problems. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is DDT a biodegradable pollutant?

How long does DDT take to degrade?

DDT may degrade in 12-15 years. 

Is DDT legal?

No, DDT was banned in the 1970s and therefore, it is not legal to use DDT because of its harmful impacts

References

  • Turusov, V., Rakitsky, V., & Tomatis, L. (2002). Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT): ubiquity, persistence, and risks. Environmental health perspectives, 110(2), 125-128.
  • Van den Berg, H. (2009). Global status of DDT and its alternatives for use in vector control to prevent disease. Environmental health perspectives, 117(11), 1656-1663.
  • Beard, J., & Australian Rural Health Research Collaboration. (2006). DDT and human health. Science of the total environment, 355(1-3), 78-89.
  • Cohn, B. A., Wolff, M. S., Cirillo, P. M., & Sholtz, R. I. (2007). DDT and breast cancer in young women: new data on the significance of age at exposure. Environmental health perspectives, 115(10), 1406-1414.
  • Kinkela, D. (2011). DDT and the American century: global health, environmental politics, and the pesticide that changed the world. Univ of North Carolina Press.

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