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Editorial Reviews. Review. Silent Spring, released in , offered the first Silent Spring - Kindle edition by Rachel Carson. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like. Editorial Reviews. Review. Silent Spring, released in , offered the first Silent Spring Anniversary Edition, Kindle Edition .. Download. "Silent Spring is a devastating attack on human carelessness, greed and irresponsibility. It should be read by every American who does not want it to be the.

Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Books by Language. No science- fiction nightmare can equal the power of this authentic and chilling portrait of the un-seen destroyers which have already begun to change the shape of life as we know it. It should be read by every American who does not want it to be the epitaph of a world not very far beyond us in time. When she warns us, as she does with such a profound sense of urgency, we ought to take heed. This book is must reading for every responsible citizen. If our species cannot police itself against overpopulation, nuclear weapons and pollution, it may become extinct.

The Human Price Through a Narrow Window One in Every Four Nature Fights Back The Rumblings of an Avalanche I then realized I must write this book.

During the years since then I have received help and encouragement from so many people that it is not possible to name them all here. Those who have freely shared with me the fruits of many years' experience and study represent a wide variety of government agencies in this and other countries, many universities and research institutions, and many professions.

To all of them I express my deepest thanks for time and thought so generously given. In addition my special gratitude goes to those who took time to read portions of the manuscript and to offer comment and criticism based on their own expert knowledge. Although the final responsibility for the accuracy and validity of the text is mine, I could not have completed the book without the generous help of these specialists: Bartholomew, M. Biesele of the University of Texas, A.

Biskind, M. Hargraves, M. Hueper, M. Wallace of Michigan State University. Every writer of a book based on many diverse facts owes much to the skill and helpfulness of librarians. I owe such a debt to many, but especially to Ida K. As my editor, Paul Brooks has given steadfast encouragement over the years and has cheerfully accommodated his plans to postponements and delays.

For this, and for his skilled editorial judgment, I am everlastingly grateful. I have had capable and devoted assistance in the enormous task of library research from Dorothy Algire, Jeanne Davis, and Bette Haney Duff.

And I could not possibly have completed the task, under circumstances sometimes difficult, except for the faithful help of my housekeeper, Ida Sprow.

Finally, I must acknowledge our vast indebtedness to a host of people, many of them unknown to me personally, who have nevertheless made the writing of this book seem worthwhile.

These are the people who first spoke out against the reckless and irresponsible poisoning of the world that man shares with all other creatures, and who are even now fighting the thousands of small battles that in the end will bring victory for sanity and common sense in our accommodation to the world that surrounds us.

She had spent most of her professional life as a marine biologist and writer with the U. Fish and Wildlife Service. But now she was a world-famous author, thanks to the fabulous success of The Sea Around Us, published seven years before. Royalties from this book and its successor, The Edge of the Sea, had enabled her to devote full time to her own writing.

To most authors this would seem like an ideal situation: It might have been assumed that her next book would be in a field that offered the same opportunities, the same joy in research, as did its predecessors.

Indeed she had such projects in mind. But it was not to be.

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While working for the government, she and her scientific colleagues had become alarmed by the widespread use of DDT and other long-lasting poisons in so-called agricultural control programs. Immediately after the war, when these dangers had already been recognized, she had tried in vain to interest some magazine in an article on the subject. A decade later, when the spraying of pesticides and herbicides some of them many ti mes as toxic as DDT was causing wholesale destruction of wildlife and its habitat, and clearly endangering human life, she decided she had to speak out.

Again she tried to interest the magazines in an article. Though by now she was a well-known writer, the magazine publishers, fearing to lose advertising, turned her down. For example, a manufacturer of canned baby food claimed that such an article would cause "unwarranted fear" to mothers who used his product.

The one exception was The New Yorker, which would later serialize parts of Silent Spring in advance of book publication. So the only answer was to write a book— book publishers being free of advertising pressure. Miss Carson tried to find someone else to write it, but at last she decided that if it were to be done, she would have to do it herself.

Many of her strongest admirers questioned whether she could write a salable book on such a dreary subject. She shared their doubts, but she went ahead because she had to. It required a very different kind of research from her previous books. She could no longer recount the delights of the laboratories at Woods Hole or of the marine rock pools at low tide.

Joy in the subject itself had to be replaced by a sense of almost religious dedication. And extraordinary courage: It was not simply that she was opposing indiscriminate use of poisons but— more fundamentally— that she had made clear the basic irresponsibility of an industrialized, technological society toward the natural world. When the attack did come, it was probably as bitter and unscrupulous as anything of the sort since the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species a century before.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the chemical industry in an attempt to discredit the book and to malign the author— she was described as an ignorant and hysterical woman who wanted to turn the earth over to the insects. These attacks fortunately backfired by creating more publicity than the publisher possibly could have afforded.

A major chemical company tried to stop publication on the grounds that Miss Carson had made a misstatement about one of their products. She hadn't, and publication proceeded on schedule. She herself was singularly unmoved by all this furor. Meanwhile, as a direct result of the message in Silent Spring, President Kennedy set up a special panel of his Science Advisory Committee to study the problem of pesticides.

The panel's report, when it appeared some months later, was a complete vindication of her thesis. Rachel Carson was very modest about her accomplishment. As she wrote to a close friend when the manuscript was nearing completion: Now I can believe I have at least helped a little. It led to environmental legislation at every level of government. Twenty-five years after its original publication, Silent Spring has more than a historical interest. Such a book bridges the gulf between what C.

Snow called "the two cultures. She had an emotional response to nature for which she did not apologize. The more she learned, the greater grew what she termed "the sense of wonder. Rereading her book today, one is aware that its implications are far broader than the immediate crisis with which it dealt. By awaking us to a specific danger— the poisoning of the earth with chemicals— she has helped us to recognize many other ways some little known in her time in which mankind is degrading the quality of life on our planet.

And Silent Spring will continue to remind us that in our over-organized and over- mechanized age, individual initiative and courage still count: The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchards where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the green fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines.

Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the fall mornings. Along the roads, laurel, viburnum and alder, great ferns and wildflowers delighted the traveler's eye through much of the year. Even in winter the roadsides were places of beauty, where countless birds came to feed on the berries and on the seed heads of the dried weeds rising above the snow. The countryside was, in fact, famous for the abundance and variety of its bird life, and when the flood of migrants was pouring through in spring and fall people traveled from great distances to observe them.

Others came to fish the streams, which flowed clear and cold out of the hills and contained shady pools where trout lay. So it had been from the days many years ago when the first settlers raised their houses, sank their wells, and built their barns.

Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community: Everywhere was a shadow of death.

The farmers spoke of much illness among their families. In the town the doctors had become more and more puzzled by new kinds of sickness appearing among their patients. There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among adults but even among children, who would be stricken suddenly while at play and die within a few hours.

There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example— where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

On the farms the hens brooded, but no chicks hatched. The farmers complained that they were unable to raise any pigs— the litters were small and the young survived only a few days. The apple trees were coming into bloom but no bees droned among the blossoms, so there was no pollination and there would be no fruit.

The roadsides, once so attractive, were now lined with browned and withered vegetation as though swept by fire. These, too, were silent, deserted by all living things. Even the streams were now lifeless. Anglers no longer visited them, for all the fish had died. In the gutters under the eaves and between the shingles of the roofs, a white granular powder still showed a few patches; some weeks before it had fallen like snow upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and streams.

No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.

This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterpa rts in America or elsewhere in the world. I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe. Yet everyone of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have already suffered a substantial number of them.

A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know. What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America? This book is an attempt to explain. To a large extent, the physical form and the habits of the earth's vegetation and its animal life have been molded by the environment.

Considering the whole span of earthly time, the opposite effect, in which life actually modifies its surroundings, has been relatively slight. Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species— man— acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world. During the past quarter century this power has not only increased to one of disturbing magnitude but it has changed in character.

The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible.

In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little- recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world— the very nature of its life.

Strontium 90, released through nuclear explosions into the air, comes to earth in rain or drifts down as fallout, lodges in soil, enters into the grass or corn or wheat grown there, and in time takes up its abode in the bones of a human being, there to remain until his death. Similarly, chemicals sprayed on croplands or forests or gardens lie long in soil, entering into living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death.

Or they pass mysteriously by underground streams until they emerge and, through the alchemy of air and sunlight, combine into new forms that kill vegetation, sicken cattle, and work unknown harm on those who drink from once pure wells.

As Albert Schweitzer has said, 'Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation. The environment, rigorously shaping and directing the life it supported, contained elements that were hostile as well as supporting. Certain rocks gave out dangerous radiation; even within the light of the sun, from which all life draws its energy, there were short-wave radiations with power to injure.

Given time— time not in years but in millennia— life adjusts, and a balance has been reached. For time is the essential ingredient; but in the modern world there is no time. The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature. Radiation is no longer merely the background radiation of rocks, the bombardment of cosmic rays, the ultraviolet of the sun that have existed before there was any life on earth; radiation is now the unnatural creation of man's tampering with the atom.

The chemicals to which life is asked to make its adjustment are no longer merely the calcium and silica and copper and all the rest of the minerals washed out of the rocks and carried in rivers to the sea; they are the synthetic creations of man's inventive mind, brewed in his laboratories, and having no counterparts in nature.

To adjust to these chemicals would require time on the scale that is nature's; it would require not merely the years of a man's life but the life of generations. And even this, were it by some miracle possible, would be futile, for the new chemicals come from our laboratories in an endless stream; almost five hundred annually find their way into actual use in the United States alone.

The figure is staggering and its implications are not easily grasped— new chemicals to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience. Among them are many that are used in man's war against nature. Since the mids over basic chemicals have been created for use in killing insects, weeds, rodents, and other organisms described in the modern vernacular as 'pests'; and they are sold under several thousand different brand names.

These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes— nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the 'good' and the 'bad', to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil— all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects.

Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called 'insecticides', but 'biocides'. The whole process of spraying seems caught up in an endless spiral.

Since DDT was released for civilian use, a process of escalation has been going on in which ever more toxic materials must be found. This has happened because insects, in a triumphant vindication of Darwin's principle of the survival of the fittest, have evolved super races immune to the particular insecticide used, hence a deadlier one has always to be developed— and then a deadlier one than that. It has happened also because, for reasons to be described later, destructive insects often undergo a 'flareback', or resurgence, after spraying, in numbers greater than before.

Thus the chemical war is never won, and all life is caught in its violent crossfire. Along with the possibility of the extinction of mankind by nuclear war, the central problem of our age has therefore become the contamination of man's total environment with such substances of incredible potential for harm— substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals and even penetrate the germ cells to shatter or alter the very material of heredity upon which the shape of the future depends.

Some would-be architects of our future look toward a time when it will be possible to alter the human germ plasm by design. But we may easily be doing so now by inadvertence, for many chemicals, like radiation, bring about gene mutations.

It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. All this has been risked— for what? Future historians may well be amazed by our distorted sense of proportion. How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?

Yet this is precisely what we have done. We have done it, moreover, for reasons that collapse the moment we examine them. We are told that the enormous and expanding use of pesticides is necessary to maintain farm production. Yet is our real problem not one of overproduction? Our farms, despite measures to remove acreages from production and to pay farmers not to produce, have yielded such a staggering excess of crops that the American taxpayer in is paying out more than one billion dollars a year as the total carrying cost of the surplus-food storage program.

And is the situation helped when one branch of the Agriculture Department tries to reduce production while another states, as it did in , 'It is believed generally that reduction of crop acreages under provisions of the Soil Bank will stimulate interest in use of chemicals to obtain maximum production on the land retained in crops.

I am saying, rather, that control must be geared to realities, not to mythical situations, and that the methods employed must be such that they do not destroy us along with the insects. The problem whose attempted solution has brought such a train of disaster in its wake is an accompaniment of our modern way of life. Long before the age of man, insects inhabited the earth— a group of extraordinarily varied and adaptable beings.

Over the course of time since man's advent, a small percentage of the more than half a million species of insects have come into conflict with human welfare in two principal ways: Disease-carrying insects become important where human beings are crowded together, especially under conditions where sanitation is poor, as in time of natural disaster or war or in situations of extreme poverty and deprivation.

Then control of some sort becomes necessary. It is a sobering fact, however, as we shall presently see, that the method of massive chemical control has had only limited success, and also threatens to worsen the very conditions it is intended to curb.

Under primitive agricultural conditions the farmer had few insect problems. These arose with the intensification of agriculture— the devotion of immense acreages to a single crop. Such a system set the stage for explosive increases in specific insect populations.

Single-crop farming does not take advantage of the principles by which nature works; it is agriculture as an engineer might conceive it to be. Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds. One important natural check is a limit on the amount of suitable habitat for each species.

Obviously then, an insect that lives on wheat can build up its population to much higher levels on a farm devoted to wheat than on one in which wheat is intermingled with other crops to which the insect is not adapted. The same thing happens in other situations. A generation or more ago, the towns of large areas of the United States lined their streets with the noble elm tree.

Now the beauty they hopefully created is threatened with complete destruction as disease sweeps through the elms, carried by a beetle that would have only limited chance to build up large populations and to spread from tree to tree if the elms were only occasional trees in a richly diversified planting.

Another factor in the modern insect problem is one that must be viewed against a background of geologic and human history: This worldwide migration has been studied and graphically described by the British ecologist Charles Elton in his recent book The Ecology of Invasions.

During the Cretaceous Period, some hundred million years ago, flooding seas cut many land bridges between continents and living things found themselves confined in what Elton calls 'colossal separate nature reserves'. There, isolated from others of their kind, they developed many new species. When some of the land masses were joined again, about 15 million years ago, these species began to move out into new territories— a movement that is not only still in progress but is now receiving considerable assistance from man.

The importation of plants is the primary agent in the modern spread of species, for animals have almost invariably gone along with the plants, quarantine being a comparatively recent and not completely effective innovation.

The United States Office of Plant Introduction alone has introduced almost , species and varieties of plants from all over the world.

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Nearly half of the or so major insect enemies of plants in the United States are accidental imports from abroad, and most of them have come as hitchhikers on plants. In new territory, out of reach of the restraining hand of the natural enemies that kept down its numbers in its native land, an invading plant or animal is able to become enormously abundant. Thus it is no accident that our most troublesome insects are introduced species.

These invasions, both the naturally occurring and those dependent on human assistance, are likely to continue indefinitely. Quarantine and massive chemical campaigns are only extremely expensive ways of buying time.

We are faced, according to Dr. Elton, 'with a life-and-death need not just to find new technological means of suppressing this plant or that animal'; instead we need the basic knowledge of animal populations and their relations to their surroundings that will 'promote an even balance and damp down the explosive power of outbreaks and new invasions.

We train ecologists in our universities and even employ them in our governmental agencies but we seldom take their advice. We allow the chemical death rain to fall as though there were no alternative, whereas in fact there are many, and our ingenuity could soon discover many more if given opportunity.

Have we fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good? Such thinking, in the words of the ecologist Paul Shepard, 'idealizes life with only its head out of water, inches above the limits of toleration of the corruption of its own environment.

Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal? The crusade to create a chemically sterile, insect-free world seems to have engendered a fanatic zeal on the part of many specialists and most of the so-called control agencies.

On every hand there is evidence that those engaged in spraying operations exercise a ruthless power. The most flagrant abuses go unchecked in both state and federal agencies. It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used.

I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.

We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge. If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem. I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself.

Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life. There is still very limited awareness of the nature of the threat.

This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits. It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts.

It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand, 'The obligation to endure gives us the right to know. In the less than two decades of their use, the synthetic pesticides have been so thoroughly distributed throughout the animate and inanimate world that they occur virtually everywhere.

They have been recovered from most of the major river systems and even from streams of groundwater flowing unseen through the earth. Residues of these chemicals linger in soil to which they may have been applied a dozen years before. They have entered and lodged in the bodies offish, birds, reptiles, and domestic and wild animals so universally that scientists carrying on animal experiments find it almost impossible to locate subjects free from such contamination.

They have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in soil, in the eggs of birds— and in man himself. For these chemicals are now stored in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings, regardless of age.

They occur in the mother's milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child. All this has come about because of the sudden rise and prodigious growth of an industry for the production of manmade or synthetic chemicals with insecticidal properties.

This industry is a child of the Second World War. In the course of developing agents of chemical warfare, some of the chemicals created in the laboratory were found to be lethal to insects. The discovery did not come by chance: The result has been a seemingly endless stream of synthetic insecticides.

In being man-made— by ingenious laboratory manipulation of the molecules, substituting atoms, altering their arrangement— they differ sharply from the simpler insecticides of prewar days. These were derived from naturally occurring minerals and plant products— compounds of arsenic, copper, , manganese, zinc, and other minerals, pyrethrum from the dried flowers of chrysanthemums, nicotine sulphate from some of the relatives of tobacco, and rotenone from leguminous plants of the East Indies.

What sets the new synthetic insecticides apart is their enormous biological potency. They have immense power not merely to poison but to enter into the most vital processes of the body and change them in sinister and often deadly ways. Thus, as we shall see, they destroy the very enzymes whose function is to protect the body from harm, they block the oxidation processes from which the body receives its energy, they prevent the normal functioning of various organs, and they may initiate in certain cells the slow and irreversible change that leads to malignancy.

Yet new and more deadly chemicals are added to the list each year and new uses are devised so that contact with these materials has become practically worldwide. The production of synthetic pesticides in the United States soared from ,, pounds in to ,, pounds in — more than a fivefold increase.

The wholesale value of these products was well over a quarter of a billion dollars. But in the plans and hopes of the industry this enormous production is only a beginning.

A Who's Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals— eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones— we had better know something about their nature and their power.

Although the Second World War marked a turning away from inorganic chemicals as pesticides into the wonder world of the carbon molecule, a few of the old materials persist. Chief among these is arsenic, which is still the basic ingredient in a variety of weed and insect killers. Arsenic is a highly toxic mineral occurring widely in association with the ores of various metals, and in very small amounts in volcanoes, in the sea, and in spring water.

Its relations to man are varied and historic. Since many of its compounds are tasteless, it has been a favorite agent of homicide from long before the time of the Borgias to the present. Arsenic is present in English chimney soot and along with certain aromatic hydrocarbons is considered responsible for the carcinogenic or cancer-causing action of the soot, which was recognized nearly two centuries ago by an English physician.

Epidemics of chronic arsenical poisoning involving whole populations over long periods are on record. Arsenic-contaminated environments have also caused sickness and death among horses, cows, goats, pigs, deer, fishes, and bees; despite this record arsenical sprays and dusts are widely used.

In the arsenic-sprayed cotton country of southern United States beekeeping as an industry has nearly died out. Farmers using arsenic dusts over long periods have been afflicted with chronic arsenic poisoning, livestock have been poisoned by crop sprays or weed killers containing arsenic. Drifting arsenic dusts from blueberry lands have spread over neighboring farms, contaminating streams, fatally poisoning bees and cows, and causing human illness.

Hueper, of the National Cancer Institute, an authority on environmental cancer. Modern insecticides are still more deadly. The vast majority fall into one of two large groups of chemicals. One, represented by DDT, is known as the 'chlorinated hydrocarbons. The other group consists of the organic phosphorus insecticides, and is represented by the reasonably familiar malathion and parathion.

All have one thing in common. As mentioned above, they are built on a basis of carbon atoms, which are also the indispensable building blocks of the living world, and thus classed as 'organic'. To understand them, we must see of what they are made, and how, although linked with the basic chemistry of all life, they lend themselves to the modifications which make them agents of death.

The basic element, carbon, is one whose atoms have an almost infinite capacity for uniting with each other in chains and rings and various other configurations, and for becoming linked with atoms of other substances. Indeed, the incredible diversity of living creatures from bacteria to the great blue whale is largely due to this capacity of carbon. The complex protein molecule has the carbon atom as its basis, as have molecules of fat, carbohydrates, enzymes, and vitamins.

So, too, have enormous numbers of nonliving things, for carbon is not necessarily a symbol of life. Some organic compounds are simply combinations of carbon and hydrogen. The simplest of these is methane, or marsh gas, formed in nature by the bacterial decomposition of organic matter underwater. Mixed with air in proper proportions, methane becomes the dreaded 'fire damp' of coal mines.

Its structure is beautifully simple, consisting of one carbon atom to which four hydrogen atoms have become attached: For example, by substituting one atom of chlorine for one of hydrogen we produce methyl chloride: Take away three hydrogen atoms and substitute chlorine and we have the anesthetic chloroform: CI CI Substitute chlorine atoms for all of the hydrogen atoms and the result is carbon tetrachloride, the familiar cleaning fluid: CI CI In the simplest possible terms, these changes rung upon the basic molecule of methane illustrate what a chlorinated hydrocarbon is.

But this illustration gives little hint of the true complexity of the chemical world of the hydrocarbons, or of the manipulations by which the organic chemist creates his infinitely varied materials. For instead of the simple methane molecule with its single carbon atom, he may work with hydrocarbon molecules consisting of many carbon atoms, arranged in rings or chains, with side chains or branches, holding to themselves with chemical bonds not merely simple atoms of hydrogen or chlorine but also a wide variety of chemical groups.

By seemingly slight changes the whole character of the substance is changed; for example, not only what is attached but the place of attachment to the carbon atom is highly important. Such ingenious manipulations have produced a battery of poisons of truly extraordinary power. DDT short for dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane was first synthesized by a German chemist in , but its properties as an insecticide were not discovered until Almost immediately DDT was hailed as a means of stamping out insect-borne disease and winning the farmers' war against crop destroyers overnight.

DDT is now so universally used that in most minds the product takes on the harmless aspect of the familiar. Perhaps the myth of the harmlessness of DDT rests on the fact that one of its first uses was the wartime dusting of many thousands of soldiers, refugees, and prisoners, to combat lice.

It is widely believed that since so many people came into extremely intimate contact with DDT and suffered no immediate ill effects the chemical must certainly be innocent of harm.

This understandable misconception arises from the fact that— unlike other chlorinated hydrocarbons— DDT in powder form is not readily absorbed through the skin. Dissolved in oil, as it usually is, DDT is definitely toxic. If swallowed, it is absorbed slowly through the digestive tract; it may also be absorbed through the lungs. Once it has entered the body it is stored largely in organs rich in fatty substances because DDT itself is fat-soluble such as the adrenals, testes, or thyroid.

Relatively large amounts are deposited in the liver, kidneys, and the fat of the large, protective mesenteries that enfold the intestines. This storage of DDT begins with the smallest conceivable intake of the chemical which is present as residues on most foodstuffs and continues until quite high levels are reached.

The fatty storage depots act as biological magnifiers, so that an intake of as little as of 1 part per million in the diet results in storage of about 10 to 15 parts per million, an increase of one hundredfold or more. These terms of reference, so commonplace to the chemist or the pharmacologist, are unfamiliar to most of us. One part in a million sounds like a very small amount— and so it is. But such substances are so potent that a minute quantity can bring about vast changes in the body.

In animal experiments, 3 parts per million has been found to inhibit an essential enzyme in heart muscle; only 5 parts per million has brought about necrosis or disintegration of liver cells; only 2.

This is really not surprising.

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In the normal chemistry of the human body there is just such a disparity between cause and effect. For example, a quantity of iodine as small as two ten-thousandths of a gram spells the difference between health and disease. Because these small amounts of pesticides are cumulatively stored and only slowly excreted, the threat of chronic poisoning and degenerative changes of the liver and other organs is very real. Scientists do not agree upon how much DDT can be stored in the human body.

Arnold Lehman, who is the chief pharmacologist of the Food and Drug Administration, says there is neither a floor below which DDT is not absorbed nor a ceiling beyond which absorption and storage ceases. On the other hand, Dr. Wayland Hayes of the United States Public Health Service contends that in every individual a point of equilibrium is reached, and that DDT in excess of this amount is excreted. For practical purposes it is not particularly important which of these men is right.

Storage in human beings has been well investigated, and we know that the average person is storing potentially harmful amounts. According to various studies, individuals with no known exposure except the inevitable dietary one store an average of 5. So the range of proven storage is quite wide and, what is even more to the point, the minimum figures are above the level at which damage to the liver and other organs or tissues may begin.

One of the most sinister features of DDT and related chemicals is the way they are passed on from one organism to another through all the links of the food chains. For example, fields of alfalfa are dusted with DDT; meal is later prepared from the alfalfa and fed to hens; the hens lay eggs which contain DDT. Or the hay, containing residues of 7 to 8 parts per million, may be fed to cows. The DDT will turn up in the milk in the amount of about 3 parts per million, but in butter made from this milk the concentration may run to 65 parts per million.

Through such a process of transfer, what started out as a very small amount of DDT may end as a heavy concentration. Farmers nowadays find it difficult to obtain uncontaminated fodder for their milk cows, though the Food and Drug Administration forbids the presence of insecticide residues in milk shipped in interstate commerce.

The poison may also be passed on from mother to offspring. Insecticide residues have been recovered from human milk in samples tested by Food and Drug Administration scientists. This means that the breast-fed human infant is receiving small but regular additions to the load of toxic chemicals building up in his body. It is by no means his first exposure, however: In experimental animals the chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides freely cross the barrier of the placenta, the traditional protective shield between the embryo and harmful substances in the mother's body.

While the quantities so received by human infants would normally be small, they are not unimportant because children are more susceptible to poisoning than adults. This situation also means that today the average individual almost certainly starts life with the first deposit of the growing load of chemicals his body will be required to carry thenceforth. All these facts— storage at even low levels, subsequent accumulation, and occurrence of liver damage at levels that may easily occur in normal diets, caused Food and Drug Administration scientists to declare as early as that it is 'extremely likely the potential hazard of DDT has been underestimated.

No one yet knows what the ultimate consequences may be. Chlordane, another chlorinated hydrocarbon, has all these unpleasant attributes of DDT plus a few that are peculiarly its own. Its residues are long persistent in soil, on foodstuffs, or on surfaces to which it may be applied. Chlordane makes use of all available portals to enter the body. It may be absorbed through the skin, may be breathed in as a spray or dust, and of course is absorbed from the digestive tract if residues are swallowed.

Like all other chlorinated hydrocarbons, its deposits build up in the body in cumulative fashion. A diet containing such a small amount of chlordane as 2. So experienced a pharmacologist as Dr. Lehman has described chlordane in as 'one of the most toxic of insecticides— anyone handling it could be poisoned. The fact that the suburbanite is not instantly stricken has little meaning, for the toxins may sleep long in his body, to become manifest months or years later in an obscure disorder almost impossible to trace to its origins.

On the other hand, death may strike quickly. One victim who accidentally spilled a 25 per cent industrial solution on the skin developed symptoms of poisoning within 40 minutes and died before medical help could be obtained. No reliance can be placed on receiving advance warning which might allow treatment to be had in time. Heptachlor, one of the constituents of chlordane, is marketed as a separate formulation.

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It has a particularly high capacity for storage in fat. If the diet contains as little as of 1 part per million there will be measurable amounts of heptachlor in the body. It also has the curious ability to undergo change into a chemically distinct substance known as heptachlor epoxide. It does this in soil and in the tissues of both plants and animals. Tests on birds indicate that the epoxide that results from this change is more toxic than the original chemical, which in turn is four times as toxic as chlordane.

As long ago as the mids a special group of hydrocarbons, the chlorinated naphthalenes, was found to cause hepatitis, and also a rare and almost invariably fatal liver disease in persons subjected to occupational exposure. They have led to illness and death of workers in electrical industries; and more recently, in agriculture, they have been considered a cause of a mysterious and usually fatal disease of cattle.

In view of these antecedents, it is not surprising that three of the insecticides that are related to this group are among the most violently poisonous of all the hydrocarbons. These are dieldrin, aldrin, and endrin. Dieldrin, named for a German chemist, Diels, is about 5 times as toxic as DDT when swallowed but 40 times as toxic when absorbed through the skin in solution. It is notorious for striking quickly and with terrible effect at the nervous system, sending the victims into convulsions.

Persons thus poisoned recover so slowly as to indicate chronic effects. As with other chlorinated hydrocarbons, these long-term effects include severe damage to the liver. The long duration of its residues and the effective insecticidal action make dieldrin one of the most used insecticides today, despite the appalling destruction of wildlife that has followed its use.

As tested on quail and pheasants, it has proved to be about 40 to 50 times as toxic as DDT. There are vast gaps in our knowledge of how dieldrin is stored or distributed in the body, or excreted, for the chemists' ingenuity in devising insecticides has long ago outrun biological knowledge of the way these poisons affect the living organism.

However, there is every indication of long storage in the human body, where deposits may lie dormant like a slumbering volcano, only to flare up in periods of physiological stress when the body draws upon its fat reserves. Much of what we do know has been learned through hard experience in the antimalarial campaigns carried out by the World Health Organization. As soon as dieldrin was substituted for DDT in ma I aria -control work because the malaria mosquitoes had become resistant to DDT , cases of poisoning among the spraymen began to occur.

The seizures were severe— from half to all varying in the different programs of the men affected went into convulsions and several died. Some had convulsions as long as four months after the last exposure. Aldrin is a somewhat mysterious substance, for although it exists as a separate entity it bears the relation of alter ego to dieldrin.

When carrots are taken from a bed treated with aldrin they are found to contain residues of dieldrin. This change occurs in living tissues and also in soil. Such alchemistic transformations have led to many erroneous reports, for if a chemist, knowing aldrin has been applied, tests for it he will be deceived into thinking all residues have been dissipated. The residues are there, but they are dieldrin and this requires a different test.

Like dieldrin, aldrin is extremely toxic. It produces degenerative changes in the liver and kidneys. A quantity the size of an aspirin tablet is enough to kill more than quail.

Many cases of human poisonings are on record, most of them in connection with industrial handling. Aldrin, like most of this group of insecticides, projects a menacing shadow into the future, the shadow of sterility. Pheasants fed quantities too small to kill them nevertheless laid few eggs, and the chicks that hatched soon died.

The effect is not confined to birds. Rats exposed to aldrin had fewer pregnancies and their young were sickly and short-lived. Puppies born of treated mothers died within three days. By one means or another, the new generations suffer for the poisoning of their parents. No one knows whether the same effect will be seen in human beings, yet this chemical has been sprayed from airplanes over suburban areas and farmlands.

Endrin is the most toxic of all the chlorinated hydrocarbons. Although chemically rather closely related to dieldrin, a little twist in its molecular structure makes it 5 times as poisonous. It makes the progenitor of all this group of insecticides, DDT, seem by comparison almost harmless.

It is 15 times as poisonous as DDT to mammals, 30 times as poisonous to fish, and about times as poisonous to some birds. In the decade of its use, endrin has killed enormous numbers of fish, has fatally poisoned cattle that have wandered into sprayed orchards, has poisoned wells, and has drawn a sharp warning from at least one state health department that its careless use is endangering human lives.

In one of the most tragic cases of endrin poisoning there was no apparent carelessness; efforts had been made to take precautions apparently considered adequate. A year-old child had been taken by his American parents to live in Venezuela. There were cockroaches in the house to which they moved, and after a few days a spray containing endrin was used.

The baby and the small family dog were taken out of the house before the spraying was done about nine o'clock one morning. After the spraying the floors were washed. The baby and dog were returned to the house in midafternoon. An hour or so later the dog vomited, went into convulsions, and died.

At 10 p. After that fateful contact with endrin this normal, healthy child became little more than a vegetable— unable to see or hear, subject to frequent muscular spasms, apparently completely cut off from contact with his surroundings. Several months of treatment in a New York hospital failed to change his condition or bring hope of change.

The second major group of insecticides, the alkyl or organic phosphates, are among the most poisonous chemicals in the world.

The chief and most obvious hazard attending their use is that of acute poisoning of people applying the sprays or accidentally coming in contact with drifting spray, with vegetation coated by it, or with a discarded container. In Florida, two children found an empty bag and used it to repair a swing.

Shortly thereafter both of them died and three of their playmates became ill. The bag had once contained an insecticide called parathion, one of the organic phosphates; tests established death by parathion poisoning. On another occasion two small boys in Wisconsin, cousins, died on the same night.

One had been playing in his yard when spray drifted in from an adjoining field where his father was spraying potatoes with parathion; the other had run playfully into the barn after his father and had put his hand on the nozzle of the spray equipment. The origin of these insecticides has a certain ironic significance.

Although some of the chemicals themselves— organic esters of phosphoric acid— had been known for many years, their insecticidal properties remained to be discovered by a German chemist, Gerhard Schrader, in the late s. Almost immediately the German government recognized the value of these same chemicals as new and devastating weapons in man's war against his own kind, and the work on them was declared secret. Some became the deadly nerve gases.

Others, of closely allied structure, became insecticides. The organic phosphorus insecticides act on the living organism in a peculiar way. They have the ability to destroy enzymes— enzymes that perform necessary functions in the body. Their target is the nervous system, whether the victim is an insect or a warm-blooded animal. Under normal conditions, an impulse passes from nerve to nerve with the aid of a 'chemical transmitter' called acetylcholine, a substance that performs an essential function and then disappears.

Indeed, its existence is so ephemeral that medical researchers are unable, without special procedures, to sample it before the body has destroyed it. His Dark Materials Omnibus. Philip Pullman. The Shock Doctrine. Annie Proulx. The Signal and the Noise. Nate Silver. Common Ground.

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