We must never forget the lesson of DDT

“If you wish to live and thrive/Let the spider run alive.”
“You kill a spider, you kill your luck.”
“You kill a spider in a new house, the house will never be clean.”
Spiders and good luck go together like a cup and saucer. Two thousand years ago, the Romans carried little spiders of gold or silver to enhance their fortunes.
It’s still a good idea to let spiders live because they control insects. At the same time, I draw the line with brown recluse spiders.
We had an infestation this summer. I had heard people worry about brown spiders but I never worried about them. In fact, I didn’t know how they looked. Now, I know!
The brown recluse spider has a small body and long legs, and walks on its tiptoes. It has six eyes – arranged in three pairs. It is sometimes called the violin spider because it has a small violin-shaped pattern on its head. It can live more than 10 years.
A very shy spider, the brown recluse will try to run away from a threatening situation and it only bites when cornered. Unfortunately, its bite can have serious consequences.
We knew for sure that we wanted to get rid of these spiders. But we didn’t want to put toxic poisons in our living environment, so I researched the options and chose pyrethrum—an insecticide made of painted daisies and chrysanthemums.
I found that pyrethrum was used as a pesticide as early as the 1700s and was used by United States troops against malaria-carrying mosquitoes in World War II.
And that made me think of our experience in Edmonton in the late 1950s. Every time we went to the park, mosquitoes were a serious problem until one summer, a graduate student, who had been doing research on mosquito control, supervised the spraying of the breeding grounds west of the city. It was wonderful—long, cool summer evenings without mosquitoes.
This researcher didn’t use pyrethrum like the troops of World War II. He sprayed the lakes and rivers with a new insecticide called DDT.
Before long, DDT was the pesticide of choice. Women sprayed it in their kitchens, home owners sprayed their elm trees to rid them of Dutch elm disease, and every state sprayed its lakes and rivers.
Then researchers in Michigan noticed that after a massive spraying of elm trees 90 percent of the robins in the area died. Similar reports popped up everywhere.
To warn us what DDT could do to birds and humans, Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring” in 1962 and testified before Congress in 1963. She envisioned a spring without birds.
Because of her influence, Carson has been dubbed the mother of the modern environmental movement and her book is still a classic.
Because of damage to wildlife and the potential harm to human health, the use of DDT was banned in this country in 1973.
The lesson of DDT is a piece of our collective history that we must never forget.
For the sake of your family, the earth and future generations, research environmentally friendly options and read labels before you spray.

Copyright 2002 Marie Snider
Marie Snider is an award-winning healthcare writer and syndicated columnist.
Write Marie Snider at thisside60@aol.com or visit her website at www.visit-snider.com.

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