Articles

DDT in the Biosphere: Where Does It Go?

Science  10 Dec 1971:
Vol. 174, Issue 4014, pp. 1101-1107
DOI: 10.1126/science.174.4014.1101

Abstract

The worldwide pattern of movement of DDT residues appears to be from the land through the atmosphere into the oceans and into the oceanic abyss. Calculations based on the fragmentary data available on. rates of movement and sizes of various pools of DDT residues lead to the conclusion that concentrations in the atmosphere and in the mixed layer of the oceans lag by only a few years behind the amounts of DDT used annually throughout the world. A model suggests that maximum concentrations of DDT residues occurred in air in 1966 and will occur in the mixed layer of the oceans in 1971. The biota probably contains in total less than 1/30 of 1 year's production of DDT during the mid-1960's, a very small amount in proportion to the total potentially available. The reason for the biota's failure to absorb larger quantities and to be affected much more severely is unclear. The analysis suggests that mere good fortune has protected man and the rest of the biota from much higher concentrations, thus emphasizing the need to determine the details of the movement of DDT residues and other toxins through the biosphere and to move swiftly to bring world use of such toxins under rational control based on firm knowledge of local and worldwide cycles and hazards.