Ensuring Life, Health and Prosperity for Future Generations

> Known Effects of DDT

Problems with Brain Development

Several recent studies demonstrate a link between in utero exposure to DDT or DDE and developmental neurotoxicity in humans. For example, a 2006 study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley suggests children who have been exposed to DDT while in the womb have a greater chance of experiencing development problems,[55] and another study from the same year found that even low-level concentrations of DDT in serum from the umbilical cord at birth were associated with a decrease in cognitive skills at 4 years of age.[56] Similarly, Mexican researchers have demonstrated a link between DDE exposure in the first trimester of pregnancy and retarded psychomotor development.[57]

Low Semen Counts

  • A 2007 study documented decreases in semen quality among South African men from communities where DDT is used to combat endemic malaria. The researchers found statistically significant correlations between increased levels of DDT and its breakdown product DDE in blood plasma and decreases in several measures of semen quality including ejaculate volume, certain motility parameters, and sperm count.[58] The same researchers reported similar results in 2006 from a study of men in Mexico.[59] A review of earlier studies noted that “Studies of populations with a much lower exposure than that seen in current malaria-endemic areas have shown only weak, inconsistent associations between DDE and testosterone amounts, semen quality, and sperm DNA damage.”[16]

Difficulty with Pregnancy

  • One recent study suggests that women exposed to DDT while in the womb have more difficulty getting pregnant as adults than non-exposed women. On the other hand, prenatal DDE exposure increased the probability of pregnancy.[60]


  • DDT exposure is associated with early pregnancy loss, a type of miscarriage. A prospective cohort study of Chinese textile workers found “a positive, monotonic, exposure-response association between preconception serum total DDT and the risk of subsequent early pregnancy losses.” [61] The median serum DDE level of study group was lower than that typically observed in women living in homes sprayed with DDT, suggesting that these finding are relevant to the debate
  • This past year, CDC suppressed a study showing health defects from organochlorines in the Great Lakes area….some of same effects as DDT.v


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