While the United States was able to ban the use of DDT for any purpose in 1972, critics contended that the lives saved from malaria and typhus outweighed the risk in some parts of the world. During the previous 25 years, approximately 675,000 tons had been applied in the United States reaching a peak in 1959 when nearly 80 million pounds were applied, and by the time of the ban, the use had declined to approximately 13 million pounds used primarily on cotton. Insecticides have historically been used on more than any other US crop, and the excessive use of DDT on cotton had resulted in pest management problems due to the resistance built up in the target pests.
The declining effectiveness of DDT had become apparent in the United States as well as the rest of the world. However, the United States opted for a complete ban (except for emergency use), while the areas still burdened by malaria and typhus continued to apply the hazardous chemical. The political influence of the United States and the pressure to funding for global agricultural programs that used DDT has discouraged its use in most parts of the world, and no industrialized nation still uses it.
The problems posed by DDT have become global in scope. The most serious and direct threat to health is the possibility of it causing damage to the nervous system and its persistence in nature. It has the ability to travel in the air or through the water supply and has migrated in significant quantities to the Arctic, even though the chemical has never been there.
In 1998, Arctic women, "already have concentrations of DDT and other persistent pollutants in their breast milk and umbilical cord blood far in excess of recommended safe levels". The global concern for the use of DDT culminated in the 2000 convention held in Stockholm, where 120 countries and environmental groups adopted a global treaty that would lead to the eventual outlawing of DDT. This treaty was agreed upon in principle but required ratification by several member states.
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