We all agree that it is better not to have any pollutants at all but in an industrialised world with massive populations and intensive farming, a pollution free environment is a dream that seems light years away. In fact there are so many pollutants in our environment today that if we included all of them, our article would probably be X rated for frightening content. The worst offenders are obviously those that get into the food chain early on and then accumulate as they move up the chain towards us at the top.
DDT or Dichlorodiphenoxytrichloroethane to give it its full scary name is perhaps the best known culprit. The chemical was first created in the lab in the late 1800's but did not come into its own until the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Muller discovered its action as a pesticide in the 1930's. It was so good at massacring the pests that carried typhus and malaria that it was used extensively during the Second World War. In hindsight and with our knowledge of DDT's toxicity it seems slightly ironic that Paul Hermann Muller won the Nobel Prize for medicine for his work.
DDT was the 'it' thing in the 1940's and 50's. It had protected our menfolk - our fathers, sons and brothers during the Second World War by virtually wiping out the malaria mosquito in areas where they were fighting. People even drank a cocktail with it in. The Mickey Slim was a gin and DDT mix that people said gave a great high and was the next best thing to the banned drink, Absinthe.
So when did the world get wise?
In the 1960's American biologist Rachel Carson wrote the first piece of work that criticised the use of pesticides such as DDT without any thought as to the ecological implications. DDT is one of the pesticides that has the greatest capacity to accumulate in the food chain because it is ingested and then stored in fat cells. It gets into smaller animals and then predators eat the small animals and more and more DDT accumulates until it reaches the top predator - ourselves.
DDT for breakfast
Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring listed all of the environmental impacts of DDT and it was one of the first books to highlight the link between pesticides and cancer. The pressure to ban DDT increased and in an attempt to demonstrate its safety, Robert Loibl a pest control executive carried out a publicity stunt in Time magazine, where he claimed that he and his wife included 10mg of DDT in their breakfast every morning.
DDT linked to Parkinson's , breast cancer and liver damage
The pressure groups won the battle and in 1972, the USA banned the agricultural use of DDT. But it didn't go away completely and as late as 2005 nearly all US blood samples showed the presence of DDT at varying levels. In November this year a study was published that demonstrated a link between levels of DDT in the blood of elderly people and cognitive decline. DDT has also been linked to Parkinson's disease, breast cancer, developmental deformities, infertility, hypothyroidism, diabetes and liver damage.
Vitamins protect against DDT damage
The good news is that new research published this month has shown that yet again there are solid reasons to rely on the good old vitamins C and E for protection.
Research published in PLoS One has shown that vitamins C and E have a protective effect on the toxicity caused by DDT in liver cells. The addition of Vitamin C or Vitamin E to the cells being treated with DDT actually prevented and reversed the DDT effect. The protective effect was even greater if both vitamins were used together.
So if you are mad enough to want to try a Mickey Slim, include a slice of lemon and some olives.
More on protective effects of vitamins:
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