(Article changed on January 9, 2014 at 12:38)
Biologist Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964).
(image by Smithsonian Institution Archives, WIkimedia Commons)
Link to Original Article: Click Here.
Although Rachel Carson was a marine biologist, I believe she deserves recognition as one of the "Great Women In Medicine." I will explain why.
Her landmark book, "Silent Spring", is credited with motivating the government to create the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and the banning of DDT in 1972, both of which had enormous health benefits for the population.
The title "Silent Spring" refers to the mass extermination of the bird population from indiscriminate spraying of DDT over the fields. The songbirds died from eating DDT-laden insects.
Rachel Carson died from breast cancer in 1964 and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter in 1980. The Post Office in Rachel Carson's home town, Springdale, Pennsylvania, was named in her honor on May 27, 2008.
The History of DDT and the Chemical Industry
The post-war era of the nineteen forties and fifties saw massive expansion of manufacture and sale of chemical pesticides such as DDT. These chemical agents were considered safe, and DDT was indiscriminately sprayed from passing trucks and planes onto agricultural fields and residential areas.
At the same time, there was hysteria arising from the polio epidemic, and the media falsely spread the message that using DDT to kill insects somehow prevented the spread of polio. DDT could eradicate malaria, but was not effective against polio.The mass media and government in league with the chemical industry lulled the complacent population into a sheep-like acceptance of these poisons.
Fighting the Chemical Industry
Rachel Carson bravely took on the entire chemical industry, which fought back by hiring their own "experts", goons with scientific credentials, to attack her work. The attacks back-fired, providing even more media attention to her work and the health dangers of pesticides.
Silent Spring headline
(image by Houghton Mifflin)
Rachel Carson brought to public attention the fact that pesticides sprayed on our food supply move right up the food chain to us humans where they build up in the tissues of the body causing hormonal disruption, toxic effects on the nervous system, and increased cancer risk.(28)
One should notice that the chemical structure of DDT is very similar to DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic estrogen that was banned because it causes cervical cancer in the daughters of women given DES during pregnancy. (11) (12) (12a) (13)
DDT was banned in 1972, and DES was banned in 1971. The Silent Spring Institute continues the legacy of Rachel Carson, and has focused on chemicals in the environment that cause breast cancer as hormonal disruptors and neurotoxins. (14)