SI Vault
John O'Reilly
May 02, 1960
In the war against his insect enemies, man has reached the point where his poisons not only kill birds and animals but threaten the human population as well
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May 02, 1960

The Deadly Spray

In the war against his insect enemies, man has reached the point where his poisons not only kill birds and animals but threaten the human population as well

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In the last three years the U.S. Department of Agriculture, warring against the fire ant, has sprayed more than 1,750,000 acres in the Southeast with chemical pesticides far more poisonous than DDT.

In the last few weeks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reported finding 59 species of animals, including game birds, dead on the ground in sprayed areas. These animals all contained residues of dieldrin or heptachlor, the two chemicals used.

In the same period the Food and Drug Administration declared a zero tolerance for heptachlor in foodstuffs for human consumption.

Thus man's chemical warfare against his insect enemies has at last reached the point where it threatens the well-being of man himself. The multimillion-dollar campaign waged by the Department of Agriculture against the imported fire ant has brought the whole question of the mass use of pesticides into violent focus. Yet the spray program for fire-ant control is only one of several in which scientific investigators have found alarming results. Here are some of the others:

?Heavy losses of game and nongame fish were discovered four months after DDT was sprayed on a large tract of forest in the watershed of Montana's Yellowstone River. On less than 300 yards of stream 600 dead or dying whitefish, brown trout and suckers were counted, and Professor Richard J. Graham found fish dying 90 miles below the treated watershed. The fish were found to contain DDT.

?On the east coast of Florida 2,000 acres of tidal marsh, traversed by 354,000 linear feet of ditches, were sprayed by airplane with dieldrin to control sand flies. The fish kill was nearly complete, estimates running to between 20 and 30 tons, or about 1,750,000 fish, representing some 30 species.

?Robins and other highly desirable birds were wiped out in a number of communities in the Midwest, where spraying with DDT has been conducted for control of the Dutch elm disease. On the campus of Michigan State University Dr. George J. Wallace found original nesting robins were killed and others moving in to replace them also fell prey to the poison.

?Damage to birds and mammals was reported by T. G. Scott, Y. L. Willis and J. A. Ellis from applications of dieldrin for control of Japanese beetles in Illinois.

?Research conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has shown that as little as�00,000 of an ounce of dieldrin per day in the food of pheasants resulted in eggs of low hatchability and chicks subject to abnormally high death rates.

?Some streams already have been polluted with pesticides, and DDT has been found at the mouths of even the largest rivers, including the Mississippi and the Columbia.

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