School of Engineering

Event items

The DDT story: From savior to villain, and how to deal with a legacy

Speaker: Dr David Werner (Newcastle University)

Date/Time: 21 February 2018; 12:00-13:00

Venue: Drummond Building Room 1.11

The organochlorine pesticide DDT was discovered by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller, and played a major role in controlling malaria and typhus in World War II.

In 1948, Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery. In 1962, Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" raised awareness for the environmental impacts of widespread use of DDT in agriculture in the United States, especially on the bird population.

As a result of the popular outcry, agricultural DDT use was banned in the United States from 1972, and DDT and a number of other persistent organic chemicals were also restricted globally to vector control use under the Stockholm convention of 2004.

However, DDT residuals are still present in the environment and present major environmental management and remediation challenges at legacy pollution hotspots.

The seminar will present the case study of a DDT formulation site on Lauritzen Channel in Richmond, California. It will describe how, despite major clean-up efforts at the site from 1990 to 1999, the sediment and water in the Lauritzen Channel is still contaminated with DDT at levels high enough to pose a threat to marine wildlife. It will explain how a team of scientists and engineers developed, from the first laboratory tests to the first real world applications, a novel remediation approach for sediments impacted by persistent organic pollutants. This novel remediation approach is currently part of a focused feasibility study for further remedial action at the Lauritzen Channel site.

Read more about Dr David Werner