Class: Chlorinated Hydrocarbons
Chemical Name: Molecular Makeup:



Sources: DDT is a widely used pesticide that was banned in the US in 1972 and worldwide by the Stockholm Convention. Technical grade DDT was 65-80% DDT combined with 14 other chemicals. The estimated total world production of DDT is 2 million tons to date. [2] It remains in limited use and production in 3rd world country disease control operations. [1]

Transport Vectors:
DDT is highly lipid soluble and as a result biomagnifies and bioconcentrates. It is not water soluble, but as a result of attaching to particulates and its high volatility, transports through both wet and dry deposition, “distilling” from warmer to cooler regions as it breaks down into DDE and DDD. Most human exposure is through food. DDT was found in all of 3,948 subjects in a CDC biomonitoring test at a mean concentration of 6.58 ng/g lipid weight. [2][23]

Sample Concentration Levels

Abiotic Media:


Soil ug/kg, mean/% samples contaminated



St. Lawrence River, 1997 (mean): 500 pg/L [6]
1967-68 US Surface Water (27 of 224 samples): .005 - .316 ug/L [7]
1999 Surface Water: N/D [8]

1987 Steele Bayou Watershed,
DDT Shallow:
30 (79%)
DDE Shallow:
100 (93%)
DDT Deep:
20 (64%)
DDE Deep: 40 (79%) [9]

Antarctica, 1992: 0.07 – 0.4 pg/m3 [3]
1971 highs, US: 2.7 -1,560 ng/m3 [4]
Mississippi Delta, 1974: 11.9 ng/m3
1975: 7.5 ng/m3 [5]

Canada Lakes
49˚N Latitude: 9.7 ug/kg (dry)
82˚N Latitude:
0.1 ug/kg (dry)[10]
US Lake Avg., 1965: 27 ug/kg
US Lake Avg., 1994: 2 ug/kg [11]

DDT infrequently decays at its theoretical half-life and in many current samples, the levels of DDT still exceed those of DDE despite predicted results. [2]     

Biotic Media:

Foods, ppb



Aquatic Life (lipid)

Meats, DDT: .8
Potatoes, DDT: <.1
DDE: .5
Legumes: 0.0 [15]
Meats, DDT:
Potatoes, DDT:
Legumes, DDT:
<0.1 [16]

Bald Eagle Chicks 1990-’96 DDT: nd-0.0171 mg/kg (plasma)
DDE: .0036 - .1484 mg/kg
Eagle Eggs, mean, mg/kg, 1974-’80: 24.4
1989-’94: 10.8
1993-’96: 3.3 [14]

8 species, 1990, high (umol/kg wet): 976.92
Low: 4.71
Median: 82.1 [12]
Pelagic: 200 ug/kg lipid
Abyssal: 1,465 ug/kg lipid [13]

Arctic ocean plankton: 43.5 ug/kg
Open Sea:
<347 ug/kg
190-315 m depth: 1,594 ug/kg
2075 m depth: 12,511 ug/kg [13]


Blood Serum (ug/L):

Adipose Tissue (mean, ng/g):

Bone Marrow:

Breastmilk, mean, ug/kg lipid:

Sao Paulo workers, DDT in DDT Appliers:13.5
DDE in DDT Appliers: 64.3
Unexposed: 14.3 [18]
1982 Great lakes fish eaters: 28.8 ppb
Non-fish eaters: 10.6 ppb [19]

DDT in 1986 US Survey, ages 0-14 yrs: 73
15-44 yrs: 177
45+ yrs: 252
DDE in 1986 US Survey, ages 0-14 yrs: 1,710
15-44 yrs:
45+ yrs: 3,080 [20]

DDT in German Children:1.75 mg/kg [21]
 DDT in German Adults:
.364 ppm
DDE in German Adults:
1.689 ppm [22]

Canada 1968: 5500
1078 – 1870
Sweden 1972: 2930
1976: 1840
1992: 283
Guatemala 1971, city: 19200
Rural: 76800 [17]

Health effects:


  1. John Paull, Toxic Colonialism, New Scientist, (2628) 25, 03 November 2007.
  2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. 2002. Toxicological profile for DDT, DDE and DDD. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services.
  3. Bidleman T, Walla M, Roura R, et al.  1993.  Organochlorine pesticides in the atmosphere of the southern ocean and Antarctica, January-March, 1990.  Mar Pollution Bulletin 26(5):258-262.
  4. Stanley C, Barney J, Helton M, et al.  1971.  Measurement of atmospheric levels of pesticides.  Environmental Science Technology 5(5):430-435.
  5. Arthur R, Cain J, Barrentine B.  1977.  DDT residues in air in the Mississippi delta, 1975.  Pesticide Monitoring Journal 10:168.
  6. Poissant L, Koprivnjak J-F, Matthieu R.  1997.  Some persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals in the atmosphere over a St. Lawrence River valley site (Villeroy) in 1992.  Chemosphere 34(3):567-585.
  7. Lichtenberg J, Eichelberger J, Dreeman R, et al.  1970.  Pesticides in surface waters of the United States: A 5-year summary, 1964-68.  Pestic Monit J 4(2):71-86.
  8. USGS.  1999.  U.S. Geological Survey.  The quality of our nation’s waters:  Nutrients and pesticides. Reston, VA:  U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1225.
  9. Ford WM, Hill EP.  1991.  Organochlorine pesticides in soil sediments and aquatic animals in the upper Steele bayou watershed of Mississippi.  Arch Environ Contam 20:161-167.
  10. Muir D, Grift N, Lockhart W, et al.  1995.  Special trends and historical profiles of organochlorine pesticides in arctic lake sediments.  Sci Total Environ 160:447-457.
  11. Van Metre P, Callender E, Fuller C.  1997.  Historical trends in organochlorine compounds in river basins identified using sediment cores from reservoirs.  Environmental Science Technology 31:2339-2344.
  12. Giesy JP, Verbrugge DA, Othout RA, et al.  1994.  Contaminants in fishes from the Great lakes- influenced sections and above dams of three Michigan rivers.  I:  Concentrations of organo chlorine insecticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin equivalents, and mercury.  Arch Environ Contam Toxicology 27:202-212.
  13. Hargrave BT, Harding GC, Vass WP, et al.  1992.  Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in the Arctic Ocean food web.  Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 22:41-54.
  14. Donaldson GM, Schutt JL, Hunter P.  1999.  Organochlorine contamination in Bald Eagle eggs and nestlings from the Canadian Great Lakes.  Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 36:70-80.
  15. Gartrell M, Craun J, Podrebarac D, et al.  1985.  Pesticides, selected elements, and other chemicals in adult total diet samples, October 1979 - September, 1980.  J Assoc Off Anal Chem 68(5):1184-1197.
  16. Gartrell M, Craun J, Podrebarac D, et al.  1986. Pesticides, selected elements, and other chemicals in infant and toddler total diet samples, October 1980-March 1982.  J Assoc Off Anal Chem 69(1):123-145.
  17. Smith D.  1999.  Worldwide trends in DDT levels in human breast milk.  Int J Epidemiol 28:179-188.
  18. Minelli E, Ribeiro M.  1996.  DDT and HCH residues in the blood serum of Malaria control sprayers. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 57:691-696.
  19. Hovinga M, Sowers M, Humphrey HEB.  1992.  Historical changes in serum PCB and DDT levels in an environmentally-exposed cohort.  Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 22:362-366.
  20. Lordo RA, Dinh KT, Schwemberger JG.  1996.  Semivolatile organic compounds in adipose tissue: Estimated averages for the US population and selected subpopulations.  Am J Public Health 86(9):1253-1259.
  21. Scheele J, Teufel M, Niessen K-H.  1995.  A comparison of the concentrations of certain chlorinated hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls in bone marrow and fat tissue of children and their concentrations in breast milk.  Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology, and Oncology 14(1):11-14.
  22. Scheele J.  1998.  A comparison of the concentrations of certain pesticides and polychlorinated hydrocarbons in bone marrow and fat tissue.  J  Environ Pathol Toxicol  Oncol 17(1):65-68.