Problem Of Pesticide Pollution in Silent Spring By Rachel Carson

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The author of this book, Rachel Carson, was a Marine Biologist. She wrote “Silent Spring” in 1962. She was a conservationist and spoke mainly about pesticides. This book caused the pesticide DDT to be banned and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

She starts her book by explaining how pesticides travel from organism to organism. She explains this with the example of levels of exposure different people get. An average person can store 5.3 to 7.4 parts per million. However, someone who works in an insecticide plant can store 648 parts per million. This proves how wide the range of storage is. The crazy thing is the smallest amount is above the level that leads to damage of the liver or other organs and tissues. Carson also mentions bioaccumulation. Bioaccumulation is the passing down of a pollutant. The example she uses in her book is chicken, more specifically hens. These hens eat DDT covered alfalfa. When the hens lay their eggs they give some of the DDT in them to their eggs. Bioaccumulation doesn’t just happen by being passed from prey to predator but can also be passed from mother to offspring.

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She then goes on to talk about hydrocarbons and other pesticides. Edrin is the most deadly chlorinated hydrocarbon. To mammals, it is 5 times as poisonous, 30 times poisonous to fish and 300 times to birds. She also states that the organic compounds are the most poisonous chemicals in the world. Where did these insecticides come from though?

Insecticides were made in the late 1930’s by a German chemist named Gerhard Schrader. Soon after this discovery the German government found out and declared them as secret. Some of these new chemicals were used to create nerve gases and others were used to create insecticides. These insecticides destroy enzymes in the body that perform necessary functions. When a body is exposed to one of these chemicals the body becomes uncoordinated and quickly result in death.

Later on in the book, Carson starts to talk about the water pollution caused by insecticides. The pollutants come from multiple sources. From but not limited to radioactive wastes, laboratories, hospitals, nuclear explosions, domestic wastes, and chemical wastes. When synthetic chemicals combine in rivers they produce deposits that can only be referred to as “gunk.” The majority of these chemicals come from pesticides becoming waterborne. Some are applied directly to the water while others get into water systems by runoff or by wind carrying them to another location. Now we have a bunch of insecticide-polluted fish. Birds eat these fish and get sick. At Tule Lake and Lower Klamath in 1960 hundreds of dead and dying birds were picked up. These birds consisted of mainly herons, pelicans, grebes, and gulls.

Later on in the book she discussed the public health problems that pesticides have caused. In the past, we have been concerned with diseases like smallpox and the plague. But, there is a new health problem that we face. Health problems that we have created by radiation from the chemicals. We know that it contaminates our soil, water, and food. We also know that no matter how many times we are exposed to the chemicals in these pesticides it can still cause serious damage if the amounts are high enough. The deaths of spraymen, farmers and pilots should not occur. Carson states, “For the population as a whole, we must be more concerned with the delayed effects of absorbing small amounts of pesticides that invisibly contaminate our world.” We have not learned. This book was written in the 1960’s. If the exposure of pesticides were so bad then that someone wrote a whole book about it, then think about what they might be like today. We do have regulations on pesticides and other chemicals today, but we still do not know all the possible health effects these chemicals create. The level of exposure really depends on the fat cells in the body. The poisons are stored in fat cells. Here, they are able to interfere with the most vital functions in the human body. These are functions like oxidation and energy production. The main organ these insecticides effect is the liver. The liver receives blood from the digestive tract. It stores sugar in the form of glycogen and releases as glucose. This keeps the blood sugar stable. Without a functioning liver, the body would be defenceless. When the liver weakens the pesticides in the body, it weakens the liver as well as the pesticides.

I think it is quite strange that this book was written in the early 1960’s and is still relevant today. Even though today we have laws and regulations like the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act we still have a pesticide pollution prob 


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