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High levels of DDT still present in fish

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January 30 2007
by M.T. Whitney

(NewsTarget) The waters off the Los Angeles County coast still possess high levels of DDT contamination, according to a recent report.

The report, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, shows that the pesticide, which companies dumped into the water soon after it was banned from use in the United States, is still found with high levels in fish caught near the Los Angeles area. DDT, banned from use in the United States at the end of 1972, is considered a toxic substance by the EPA, and the federal agency associates it with an increased risk of liver cancer. It also can affect the human reproductive and nervous systems, and is toxic to many animals, especially aquatic life.

In a survey of DDT levels in fish conducted in 2002, the EPA found that the amount of DDT in fish caught off the Los Angeles County coast had not decreased much from the last survey in the late 1980s. In comparison, fish caught off the adjacent Orange County coast and north of the Redondo Beach Pier had lower levels of DDT.

"Since 1985, fish consumption advisories and health warnings have been posted in southern California because of elevated DDT and PCB levels," one report on the EPA's web site says.

The major source of DDT in the ocean comes from DDT manufacturing chemical plants in the area that dumped DDT into the local wastewater systems. These sewers then lead to the ocean.

One company, Montrose Chemical Corp., is estimated to have released more than 2,000 tons of DDT between 1947 and 1971, reported the Associated Press. Montrose ceased manufacture of DDT in 1983, ten years after it was banned in the United States.

In 2000, the EPA reached a $73 million lawsuit settlement with four companies that owned DDT manufacturing plants in Los Angeles County.

The EPA estimates that between 1942 up to its ban in 1972, approximately 675,000 tons of DDT have been applied or sprayed in the United States.

Since the 1970, most industrialized countries have banned the use of DDT. However, many scientists have rallied against a proposed worldwide ban on DDT, arguing that the insecticide can play an important role in fighting malaria. In September 2006, the World Health Organization recommended using DDT indoors as one of three methods to fight it.

Malaria, although eradicated from North America and Europe, kills between 1 and 3 million people each year.


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