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Early Victories: Winning the DDT Battle and Founding EDF

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Presentation on theme: "Early Victories: Winning the DDT Battle and Founding EDF"— Presentation transcript:

1 Early Victories: Winning the DDT Battle and Founding EDF
Charles F. Wurster Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, Marine Sciences Research Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook

2 Lecture Outline Developing problems, especially for birds
Properties of DDT Toxicity mechanisms Founding of Environmental Defense Fund, EDF Achieving the ban on DDT The birds recover

3 Problems soon developed.
DDT first synthesized in 1874 as lab curiosity. Mueller discovered insecticidal properties in 1939, won Nobel Prize. World War II – DDT effective against Typhus and Malaria, helped win war. DDT was not thoroughly tested, but it was wartime! It did not kill people. Post-WWII, 1947: DDT into widespread use for numerous insect problems. Problems soon developed.

4 Early Problems with DDT
1949 – “Nightmarish” insect control problems in Canyete Valley, Peru. DDT destroyed natural enemies and resistance developed rapidly. 1948 – Dutch elm disease spraying = dead birds in Princeton, NJ. 1950s – Reproductive failure in Western Grebes, Clear Lake, CA 1950s – Declining raptor populations in Europe, N America. Osprey, Peregrine, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, others, suffering mortality and reproductive failure.

5 Western Grebes DDD at 14, 20, and 20 ppb was added to lake to control gnats. Grebes dropped from 1,000 pairs to 15 by Fatty tissues contained ppm (35,000x higher than what was added to the lake). Earliest case of biological concentration.

6 American Woodcock 1950s – Reproductive failure in New Brunswick, Canada. Forests sprayed with DDT had lower reproductive success than unsprayed areas. .

7 Osprey 1938-1965 – Reproductive failure in the Eastern USA
S Connecticut: 200 pairs in 1938, dropped to 12 pairs in 1965 Long Island, NJ populations in steep decline. Young Per Nest DDT in Eggs (ppm) Normal 2.3 - Maryland 1.1 3.0 Connecticut 0.5 5.1

8 Bald Eagle 1940s-1970 Declining reproductive success and populations in Lower 48. DDT and Dieldrin found in all eagles and eggs analyzed. Eggs averaged10 ppm DDT, less Dieldrin.

9 Eurasian Sparrowhawk s - Declining population, egg breakage, egg eating, in Eurasian Sparrowhawk. DDE and Dieldrin present in eggs, adult fatty tissues, and chicks.

10 Peregrine Falcon 1940s – 1970s – world’s fastest bird, favorite of falconry. Severe reproductive failure, N America and Europe, broken eggs, egg eating, extinction E of Rockies, became rare in West. Madison Conference documented decline, produced book, blamed “pesticides.” DDT and/or Dieldrin considered most likely cause, substantial circumstantial evidence, not proof.

11 1950-1970 - Other species with reproduction problems:
Brown Pelicans laid “omelets,” 50% shell thinning, produced no chicks on Channel Islands off LA. Montrose Chemical Co.! Golden Eagles in Scotland, probably from Dieldrin in sheep dips. Bermuda Petrel in North Atlantic. Herring Gull in Great Lakes. Lesbian Gulls. Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Barn Owl, Buzzard, Merlin, Hen Harrier, Sandwich Tern Inadequate data for conclusions. Note: All above birds are carnivores. No herbivores.

12 1948-1970 – Direct mortality of songbirds from
– Direct mortality of songbirds from widespread spraying for Dutch elm disease, especially in MI, WI, IL, NH Killed millions of birds, did not save elm trees – “Silent Spring” Other problems with DDT, Dieldrin - Mortality, reduced reproduction in fish; phytoplankton; carcinogenesis. - Frequent failure at insect control, often makes pest problems worse through resistance, mortality of pest parasites and predators.

13 Properties of DDT Persistence (stability)
DDT very stable in environment. DDE is more so. DDE causes thin-shelled eggs, is carcinogenic.

14 Properties of DDT 2. Mobility Vapor pressure very low, but not zero.
Water solubility very low, but not zero. Co-distils from wet surfaces. Enters air and water circulation patterns. Falls in the rain. Contaminates most higher organisms, all people, even Antarctic penguins. Once released, is uncontrollable.

15 Properties of DDT 3. Solubility Characteristics
Water insoluble, lipid (fat) soluble. Partitions from inorganic environment into lipid- containing organisms. Biological concentration, builds up in food chains. Carnivores receive highest concentrations.

16 Properties of DDT 4. Biological Activity –
DDT and DDE are biologically active by several mechanisms. a. Acute toxicity, blocks sodium channels in nerve axons, leads to tremors and death at sufficiently high dosage. Kills insects, songbirds following Dutch elm disease spraying. b. Estrogenic, male gulls disinterested in breeding, lesbian females. c. Enzyme induction in liver. Broad spectrum enzyme break down toxicants plus female sex hormones. Affects Ca metabolism. d. Enzyme inhibition, especially Ca-ATPase in oviduct. e. Carcinogenic, DDE causes cancer in lab animals.

17 Conclusions DDT/DDE are stable, travel about the world, partition into organisms, concentrate in food chains, and are biologically active. Dieldrin, other organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, phthalate ester plasticizers, many other chemicals contaminate our ecosystems. Effects of most are unknown. Results with DDT/DDE for birds: Acute mortality and reproductive failure.

18 Bald Eagle nest, broken egg + chick
Reproductive Failure Egg breakage, egg eating, un-hatched eggs Problem with calcium metabolism Bald Eagle nest, broken egg + chick Peregrine egg, broken

19 Peregrine eggshell thicknesses, UK, 1900-1970, 20% thinner after 1947.
Sparrowhawk eggshell thicknesses, UK, , 16% thinner after 1947. Ratcliffe, Nature 215, 208 (1967) – Eggshell thicknesses in UK,

20 - Golden Eagle eggshells thinned by 8% after 1947.
Hickey & Anderson (1968) showed 18% eggshell thinning in Peregrines in North America. Similar thinning in Bald Eagles, other raptors. As in Europe, thin shells started 1947. Coincidence? DDT introduced widely into World environment, Other variables also present: radiation, other pesticides, PCBs, dieldrin, heptachlor… Controlled feeding studies (Wiemeyer & Porter 1969) with kestrels, ducks, confirmed that p-p’-DDE causes thin-shelled eggs. Other chemicals do not. Raptors, ducks, a few others similarly affected. Gallinaceous birds are not.

21 How does p,p’-DDE cause thin-shelled eggs?
Avian oviduct CO2 + H2O H+ + HCO3- + Ca CaCO3 Theories: 1. Hepatic enzyme induction involving estrogen breakdown. Medullary bone. 2. Carbonic anhydrase inhibition. 3. Inhibition of CaATPase, an enzyme that is different for each species. 4. Inhibition of prostaglandin synthetase. Theories 3 and/or 4 most likely explanation, but mechanism complex, may vary among birds, remains unsettled.

22 DDT banned June 1972 by William Ruckelshaus,
The Battle to Ban DDT Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, Stony Brook, NY, Suffolk County Mosquito Control Commission Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) founded 1967 Michigan, , DDT and Dieldrin Wisconsin, Washington, DC, Petition to USDA and HEW, combined as EPA US Court of Appeals, DC Survived standing three times Court ordered EPA hearing, judicial rules of evidence, more than 100 witnesses, 8 months. DDT banned June 1972 by William Ruckelshaus, first Administrator of EPA.

23 Dieldrin and Aldrin banned by Russell Train, EPA Administrator, 1974.
Dieldrin kills birds, fish, everything else. Dieldrin is carcinogenic. Dieldrin litigation focused on carcinogenesis. Dieldrin and Aldrin banned by Russell Train, EPA Administrator, 1974.

24 Following DDT Ban, Birds Recovered
Peregrine Falcon The Peregrine Fund established 1970, Boise, Idaho Nesting pairs lower 48: 1940s = 1,500 = = 1,200 “Let there be no doubt: the banning of DDT in 1972 was the single most important action taken to ensure the survival and recovery of the Peregrine Falcon in North America. Without it, we would not have celebrated the delisting of the American Peregrine in 1999, for it made possible everything good that happened to the Peregrine in the last decades of the 20th Century.” The Peregrine Fund, Return of the Peregrine, 2003, p. 18

25 Bald Eagle In Lower 48 States: 487 pairs in 1963 9,789 pairs in 2006 Removed from Endangered Species list, 1995 Many other species, including Osprey, Brown Pelican, Cooper’s Hawk, and Bermuda Petrel declined sharply until 1972, have recovered dramatically since 1972.

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