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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

Extract From Medical Department, United States Army Preventive Medicine in World War II: Volume IX

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U.S. Army, Medical Department, "Results of Winter DDT Spraying in an Endemic Area," in Preventive Medicine in World War II: Volume IX (United States Army, 1945), table 34. Courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Creator United States Army
Context World War II
Audience The Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army
Purpose To document the use of DDT

Historical Significance

DDT was a result of scientists' efforts during World War II to fight insect-transmitted diseases such as typhus and malaria that could infect American troops. In the 1930s, scientists discovered that a chemical substance called DDT not only exterminated insects, but also left a residue on surfaces that could exterminate pests for weeks. Both the German and American armies used DDT, and the U.S. Army used it to stop a typhus epidemic in Italy during December 1943. In the Pacific, the Allies used hand sprayers, such as the one pictured above, to spray troops. In Third World countries, DDT succeeded in controlling malaria. In 1944, the federal government sprayed DDT to reduce flies on a New Jersey island, but it significantly reduced the fish population. By 1950, there were enough examples of DDT's harmful effects that the Food and Drug Administration determined that it was "extremely likely that the potential hazard of DDT has been underestimated."

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