DDT is classified as an organic pollutant and is persistent in the soil, water sediments, fruits, and vegetables to which it is exposed. Soil readily absorbs DDT which is the primary source of nutrients for all crops, plants, and trees. The life of DDT can vary from 22 days to 30 years, depending upon the exposure.
DDT gets transported to various croplands and crops through the soil. Runoff of DDT affects the friendly microorganisms in the soil, such as aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, fungi, and protozoans.
DDT accumulates in food chains and the body tissues of living organisms since its biodegradation time is very slow. It gets deposited in small quantities in tiny organisms; however, these levels increase in the upward food chain.
DDT residues are present in birds and fishes, even those in deserts and the deepest parts of oceans, due to their intense magnification rate.
Birds are the most affected due to the DDT magnification process. It is so because birds feed on other organisms that might have undergone heavy contamination with DDT. Birds also bathe in contaminated waters.
DDT also leads to eggshell thinning in birds and is a significant cause of birds’ decline, such as the bald eagle and brown pelican.
Polar bears are also victims of DDT magnification since major rivers and winds of America and Canada flow towards the arctic region carrying DDT. In addition, polar bears eat fish to keep themselves warm and hence get contaminated by DDT.
Toxicity of DDT in Humans
Humans are most likely to be exposed to DDT since its use on food crops. DDT contaminates all meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods. Hence upon eating, touching, or breathing these products, the DDT enters the body where the fat tissues effectively absorb it.
DDT breaks down into its byproduct called DDE, which gets stored in the fat-rich tissues of the body.
DDT gets passed on to the fetus in pregnant women, which can cause several complications and abortions.
Prolonged DDT exposure has affected fertility in both men and women, including the sperm count in men.
DDT is carcinogenic to humans and can cause blood cancer, liver cancer, and endometrial cancer in women. It also increases the risk of a woman developing breast cancer.
DDT and DDE interfere with the proper thyroid function, especially during pregnancy.
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