DDT Wars: Rescuing Our National Bird, Preventing Cancer, and Creating the Environmental Defense Fund

Charles F. Wurster. Oxford Univ, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-021941-3
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was a pesticide used during WWII to help block the “transmission of several important insect-borne diseases, especially typhus and malaria,” but the chemical is arguably better known for its contentious status among environmental activists. In this vital account, Wurster, an environmental toxicologist at SUNY Stony Brook and a cofounder of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), offers a moderately accessible history of DDT and its detrimental effects while looking behind the scenes at the EDF. The Fund formed in the mid-1960s as a national organization with a mission “to take environmental problems to court using scientific evidence.” Studies in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s revealed “an assortment of problems with birds, fish, mammals, human health, and ecological disruptions,” all of which could be tied to DDT contamination. Battles against its use, as well as against soil and water contamination, would be the core of the EDF’s efforts over the years. Though some details of court hearings and presentations are too nitty-gritty for general readers, descriptions of EDF’s early office setups provide an enlightening window on how such organizations functioned, without being overly nostalgic. Wurster’s recollections serve to remind readers not only of the progress environmentalists made against DDT, but also of the changes in everyday tools they had at their disposal. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 07/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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