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What is DDT?

DDT is an abbreviation of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. It was widely used as an insecticide throughout the United States, until its use was banned in 1973. Its use was banned as it was found to have significant health and reproductive impacts on other animal populations, including humans, and is extremely persistent in the environment. Even though it was banned almost 40 years ago, many Americans still have DDT in their bodies. Learn more about the history of DDT: Science Clarified


Exposure to DDT

The main way people are exposed to DDT is through eating foods contaminated with it. Certain root and leafy vegetables, fatty meats, fish, and poultry can have low levels of DDT. Some countries still allow the use of DDT so it is possible to be exposed to it when consuming foods imported from such countries. Waste sites and landfills may contain levels of DDT so communities surrounding them may be exposed to contaminated air or drinking water.

Reducing Exposure to DDT

  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables to remove DDT from their surfaces
  • Follow health advisories about the consumption of fish and wildlife from your area

ATSDR’s ToxFAQs reviews exposure sources, health effects, and ways to reduce exposures.

DDT and Breast Cancer Risk – Timing of exposure is important. Read the study by Cohn et al that found a five-fold increase in risk of developing breast cancer with DDT exposure occurring during breast development.