Although DDT soon became synonymous with poison, the pesticide was an effective weapon in the fight against an infection that has killed – and continues to kill – more people than any other: malaria.
By 1960, due largely to DDT, malaria had been eliminated from 11 countries, including the United States. As malaria rates went down, life expectancies went up; as did crop production, land values, and relative wealth.
Environmentalists have argued that when it came to DDT, it was pick your poison. If DDT was banned, more people would die from malaria. But if DDT wasn’t banned, people would suffer and die from a variety of other diseases, not the least of which was cancer. However, studies in Europe, Canada, and the United States have since shown that DDT didn’t cause the human diseases Carson had claimed.
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