Mosquito Truck Foggers
One of my favorite childhood memories from the 1950s and into the 1960s is running behind the DDT truck. My mom would feed us early so we were finished with dinner in time to run after the mosquito trucks as they sprayed our neighborhood several times per week. Sometimes they sprayed every night with a thick and exciting blanket of fog. Similar to waiting for the ice cream truck, we couldn’t wait for the sound of the fogger motors as they rounded the corner to our street.
Kids would ride bikes, skate, and run behind The Mosquito Man, The Skeeter Man, Smokey Joe, Fogger Trucks – so many names. The DDT truck came to our beaches where mosquito populations were high. There was a poster I remember that hung on the wall of our school showing the government spraying school lunch room food to show there was no danger to the children (although I always wondered why the guys who were spraying wore hazmat suits).
It is one of those crazy things you remember when you think of how different times were then. But the world has gotten so “correct” about so many things. In the 1940s, Dr. Paul Muller won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his break-through findings on how DDT killed insects. Its use became widespread in the 1950s (80 million tons were used on US farmlands in 1958, and at one point there were 220 million pounds produced in the US in one year). By 1962, malaria, a horrid disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, was eliminated in the US primarily because of the use of DDT.
Was DDT Safe for Humans?
In years of use and in countless studies, it was found to be safe for humans, it doesn’t cause birth defects, and there are no serious side effects. (This has been challenged lately.) It has no odor (which I disagree with because I remember loving the smell of it). Called the “Atomic Bomb of Pesticides,” nothing comes close to its ability to kill the mosquitoes that carry malaria and typhus. But in our infinite wisdom, we banned it in 1972. Studies show it can be used heavily to kill off the mosquito population, and then use it sparingly afterwards to keep the pest population down.
ONE CHILD DIES EVERY 30 SECONDS in Africa, India, Brazil, Mexico, and other countries because they are not using DDT, which is inexpensive to purchase. In the year 2000, 300 million people had malaria, two million of them died from it, and one million of those were children. An infected bite can take up to four years to affect your kidney and liver. Environmentalists say that it MAY harm eagles. There is not yet proof.
Just a Memory of Running Behind DDT Truck
Be that as it may, this was supposed to be a recollection of a fun childhood memory of running behind the DDT truck, not an opinionated rant. Do any of YOU remember the DDT trucks?
And if you need a terrific real estate agent in the Colorado Springs area, give me a call.
112 thoughts on “Running Behind the DDT Truck”
I remember them with great fondness, and I’ve survived for over 60 years after breathing those fumes…
Another one of those, products, Barbara, that was so much better than the alternative. Thanks for stopping by.
I lived on Long Island NY, and I remember so well running behind that truck, couldn’t figure out why we did it but it was fun. Maybe it was the fog that it made. Who can figure out kids? But it was good exercise.
Fruit Valley, Grand Junction Co.. We never ran after a single truck, but the trucks came by a few times a week.. They came down the Alleys, on the streets.
Our Mother would call us in… We had many bushes and fruit trees. Much to my mothers objection, we would eat the fruit without washing.. There was also
a DDT bomb, that was used for indoor insects…ROACHES, etc.. My mother would let one or two of these bombs off and we escaped to the drive in. We did not
cover our sheets, bedding etc.. She covered the kitchen well, but would not go to extreme..
We are all alive and kicking well… I have NEVER heard of anyone becoming sick, due to DDT…The reading I have done, showed the woman that declared it
bad, never did any research regarding DDT.. They took it off the market without proof.. This man today with all of his stats, I find subject to being valid.
I am not calling him a liar, I am simply saying I have much doubt… I am going to check some of his stats… I am not a fond follower of the EPA.. I think they
are a complete mess.. They would ban Milk if they had their way… I am all for bringing DDT back.. It was a great product…
I don’t see how chemicals to kill mosquitos can be safe for people. The town I grew up in had that DDT truck go around and there are a surprising number of people getting cancer,leukemia also MS. I just finished reading testing results of what the consequences can be for a small dose of the chemical never mind a large or prolonged over a few months white smoke coming from the back of a truck. Children in the smoke breathing in the chemical that kills mosquitos and who knows what else. There are other safer ways to deal with mosquitos. Plants that make them keep there distance, new improved bug zappers.citranella candles or tourchs. Life is a precious gift we’re given. And no disrespect towards you I’m just giving my opinion. There is no way on gods green earth that I would take the chance and gamble with my childs life or anyone’s life when there are safe alternatives. Life is a gift and it is precious. Almost everyday I see another drug that they thought was safe now causes blood clots, heart attack and death. It kills yes mosquitos but what else not me or my child. How many times you see where a company knows there product isn’t safe but because of greed they keep it a secret. People are getting sick and dying. Some are getting Parkinsons, dementia,leukemia, people are dying of cancer. The people in my life, family, friends we are not going to gamble with our precious gift of life to prove a point that it ruins lives with illness and some aren’t so lucky and get leukemia or cancer and die instead dementia or other illnesses. Well I gave my opinion but I read about the tests and results. God Bless you.
Hi Mimi-good article but also not good. I and my sister rode behind these trucks in the “London fog” in Wheatridge; our oldest sister did not. Assuming that because you had no ill effects from DDT, and therefore it must be safe is a dangerous form of logic. Also, recent “studies” claiming no ill effects from DDT are company sponsored “studies”. Legitimate studies regarding past and present use of DDT are widely available. (See The Pine River Statement: Human Health Consequences of DDT Use). My sister and I both had several miscarriages and difficulty nursing-both of which have been identified as common consequences of high exposure to DDT in prepubescent females. My oldest sister (the one who didn’t break the rules and ride in the “London fog”) had no such issues. Does this mean that our issues were conclusively due to DDT? No. However our DDT blood levels are 3 and 5 times higher than that of our oldest sister, thus, it is a plausible link. I do understand that you were simply sharing a fond childhood memory. Admittedly we also had great fun doing so-yet not without consequence. I know your post isn’t specifically about DDT per se, however, the added assumption of lack of harm from DDT exposure is a bit unfortunate.
Everyone didn’t die during the bubonic plague, either. That doesn’t mean the bubonic plague didn’t kill all those people, just like DDT and I think you know why those guys were wearing hazmat suits. They knew better.
Sounds like the scientist and the Radium girls. The scientist would wear protective suits while the girls would like the Radium. Everything was great till someone lost a jaw or died of cancer.
I remember doing this all the time! Im 65 today, living miserably with Parkinson’s and I’m convinced this was the cause. The things they didn’t know then!
I’m so sorry about your disability. I have often wondered if it wasn’t so much the product itself, but the zeal in which they administered it. I have seen photos of the men in hazmat suits spraying the food in children’s lunch rooms while the children sat there smiling. Definitely different times!
Really? how many of neighbors got cancer?
The article was not on the pros and cons of DDT and the government’s widespread use of it. I was merely sharing a memory that was commonplace for my generation.
I agree. I have very fond memories of running behind the ddt truck!
I remember following the mesquite truck around as a kid I couldn’t wait to follow it the fog and it was fun now I can’t remeber nothing a lot I also get blood clots to idk from that but I have protein c diffency to but I remember that Connie Leon from trevose pa
Dear Mimi- I am 70. Told the story to my family about how all of us on the block would chase the DDT truck. They thought it was funny but also a little crazy! They asked questions about where were my parents,etc. an
The odd thing is – all five of us on the block that chased the trucks had twins around the same time! So as a joke I’ve always said it was because we chased the DDT truck😁
Our parents were standing on the front porch watching us and smiling. They were different times. Thanks for your comment!
Mimi Foster. Your story brought back memories when I was a child, and life was less stressful. I remember when the trucks sprayed the trees in our neighborhood, and being children, our curiosity led to entertainment. Thank you.
Thanks for stopping by, Randall. So much less stressful . . . we drank out of garden hoses, rode our bikes in the street, stayed out with friends until sunset. This was a special part of the memory. Thanks for sharing.
Me and my friends rode our bikes behind the trucks.. 54yo and no cancer and to the best of my knowledge none of my friends got it either… They should start fogging againg with west Nile and now Zika…
Well, in the mid & late1950’s my 2 cousins and I would wait until late afternoon summertime in Tennessee just before sundown the Mosquito truck spraying DDT smoke would come down our street. We would jump on our bikes or run behind the truck (an Army jeep actually) because it was fun. The only danger we saw then was possibly other vehicles coming in the opposite direction that might not see us and run over us. It was exciting! Little did we know that one of my cousins later died from Lung cancer at age 52. My other cousin died in her early 60’s of Lung and Liver cancer. They never smoked and neither do I. There was previously no cancer at all in our families dating back several generations. There is no way we can prove just how many people died years later because of this chemical. I am 67 now and sweating it out. Olin Chemical Corporation was the culprit. We will never defeat, or cheat Mother Nature without some adverse repercussions.
How about Parkinson’s? DDT has ruined my golden years. Forget the cancer I had 11 yrs ago.
Cheryl, Yes. DDT has been linked to Parkinson’s Disease in Medical studies – source CDC Atlanta and Web MD. Also it is linked to causing Alzheimer’s Disease and Autism in Children and other Neurological diseases. Google it, but check your sources for validity. I hope you recover from your illness.
Cheryl, I am truly sorry about your illness’s.. Did they actually PROVE they were caused by DDT? I hardly think so.. Its probably a thought..
Have you gotten any more information on the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s Disease? The Rocky Mountain Arsenal northeast of Denver produced that among other things.
My family members have PD. Lived in that area. Right between Rocky Flats and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
Just wondered. Thank you.
I remember chasing these trucka in Nebraska. But, as it was banned in 1972, I must have been 8 and younger!
Here, here, lol and now they have the Zika virus here and ppl are screaming about the bees. Last time I checked, we still have bees. They survived just like you and I and millions of other bees and people.
My sister, Doren Arden, wasn’t so lucky. In the 50’s, and until 1963 when we moved to NYC, we lived as kids in Merrick, in Nassau County. I was 4 years younger than Doren and I was terrified of what I called the Fog Man. When I smelled the DDT odor and knew the truck was getting near, I’d run home as quickly as I could, close all the windows and blinds, and hide behind the couch. It’s as if I had a sixth sense that the Fog Man was death. And if I wasn’t close to home, I’d pound on the door of any house I was near and plead, “Please let me in, the Fog Man is coming.” I’d hold my breath and hold my nose for as long as I could. My sister didn’t have this fear and she stayed outside to play in the fog with her friends. My sister died of breast cancer at age 33 in 1981. No one else in my family, in any generation, has ever had cancer. There was a breast cancer cluster in Nassau County and it is believed that many who developed breast cancer later in life came out of this breast cancer cluster that was caused by the DDT spraying during the time we lived in Merrick. The Fog Man was, indeed, death.
I am now 72, in great health and rode my bike for miles behind the DDT truck. Cancer clusters are mostly myth.
Omg I did that too when I was 8 and my dad was stationed in the azores
We would run behind the ddt truck
Some kid swooned dizzy
I never did
I liked the smell
I an in my 60s now
Thank god I am still okay, not brain damaged lol
i do as well but can’t believe there would be no side effect , something big like ms etc would be noticed but i know i grew up after following these trucks to end up with serious mental issues , of course they wouldn’t say that. but i have also used avid which def causes neurological problems after this , well after my other effects started…………….i trust nothing they ever say any ways.
Hi Barbara I always got on bike following that fog truck Nottingham pa I got slot skin cancer when I was kid I missed 2 nd grade sick all the time I can gain a pound ever my mom died 53 brother tumor dad lungs me lungs alot breathing and altism grandkids I could never learn after 6 grade guit 9th
Hello Barbara. Are you still ok from those fumes from the DDT truck?
I totally remember riding my bike through the spray of the DDT truck while he would spray the large tree in my yard and many others in my neighborhood. It was the late 60’s early 70’s. I think about it often and (which is weird) wondered what it was, what it could do to me, if others died or got sick from it and was I the only one that actually stayed outside while he sprayed and worst at that, would ride through the spray.
It does have a smell and to this day I can remember that smell so vividly, that it’s almost haunting.
I love that you said that about the “haunting” smell. The smell and the “enshrouding” of the fog are such vivid memories. Thanks for sharing!
What did it smell like? My townhouse was built in 1970’s. And I suspect that a DDT- laced wallpaper was applied to the inside of my bathroom cabinet drawers. They have wallpaper in them with a chemical smell that is is best described as what chlorinated bubblegum would smell like. Can someone please describe their experience of its odor?
Can you describe to me what it smelled like? I’d like to be able to recognize it if it’s why my tobacco tastes like chlorinated bubblegum after sitting in one of my bathroom drawers, that are lined with scary wallpaper that might be the DDT laced stuff they used back when my townhouse was built. In the 70’s.
I loved the mosquito fogging trucks and agree that it smelled great.
I was just recalling my good ‘ol childhood memories of the infamous “fog machine” aka “bug man” this evening. I grew up in the 70’s in Babylon Village, NY where spraying was an evening ritual. I remember we were warned by our parents, not to go into the fog. Lol. However entire rebellious neighborhood child population couldnt wait to hear the loud motor turning the corner whereas we would then run for cover until the “fog machine” passed, for he would stop spraying if he saw us, and then run and dance through the thick evening smoke swinging our hands in the air!! What fun times!! Perhaps I’m more affected from this childhood pesticide ritual than I thought..? LOL!
that is so neat, Robin. I obviously don’t know the long-term implications of our childhood escapades . . . but I know that millions still die from the mosquitos . . .
I wish I was not seeing this so long after it was written! I’ve often recounted this memory to my husband, much to his disbelief, shock, and only a tiny bit of amazement (if you knew me the last part would make a lot more sense…LOL!) Thank you for validating my childhood memory. Was it good for us? Probably not, but what a fabulous memory, and I too have survived it, with most of my wits in tact. I also agree that bug borne illness is more dangerous than the pesticide, and new types crop up constantly….very frightening. On a lighter note, Thank you again..this made my evening!!!!
It was good( clean?) fun.
Robin, I am laughing.. We never ran behind the trucks, it never entered our minds.. We were young girls.. Ya think it had something to do with a mental or a male thing?
One of my friends, he would place a towel around his neck and jump from high places screaming, Hercules… He did break a limb….:O)
Don’t take offence to my humor….
me and my brother and every other kid in our lower-middle class neighbor in lower-middle boring Kinston, NC thought these trucks the greatest. They sorta tied for first place in the cheap entertainment with us coasting our bikes down this long hill to the back of a candy warehouse distributor who dumped all their old candy in big dumpster right there for the taking. We’d swoop down off the hill and dumpster dive right in that stale candy and eat the heck out of it. But, back to the mosiquto truck, we would run and run and run and just breathe that spray like we were breathing in the heavenly clouds themselves. 11 years ago when I got breast cancer and none of my relatives had it., I didn’t someone or something to blame so after I thought my husband might get really pissed if I told being around his mother had given me cancer, my mind went immediately to those dang mosiquito trucks. But, my husband, being the all mighty mister know it all, explained to me how save the stuff coming from the back of those truck was compared to some of the other stuff in the late 60’s and 70’s that I inhaled.
Fact of the matter, Linda, is that the DDT was a LOT safer than the mosquitoes that it was there to kill. It really is a shame that it has been discontinued, especially in the poorer countries. Economical and effective and so much safer than malaria.
I agree with you.. The closest we came into contact was as I explained, the DDT bombs used for indoor use.. My parents would set off these bombs and we
would all go to the Drive ins.. We came home and laid our tired little heads down on those pillows and covered with the bedding.. None of the five children,
my parents, have had cancer, Thank God.. We lived for a year in Nashville, TN.. In all my life I have NEVER seen the likes of bugs and ROACHES.. I am
terrifies of Roaches.. The people in Nashville, upper class neighborhoods, used Kerosene to clean with.. In Tubs, bath fixtures, etc.. This was to kill roaches.
I would never try that, for fear I would burn the house down.. I think we should bring DDT back to good use..
Mimi it is really important to do your research before making this statement. I know years after you have written your article I am responding.
I have been doing some deep dive research into this subject. I too played in the DDT fog as a kid. I am horrified that is was legal! What we did not know then, we know now.
I can site the research I have done and discovered all the ill effects. But it would do no good for all the nay sayers!
We need to educate ourselves to the harmful effects of chemical poisoning.
Thank you for your comment, Lorraine. I will reiterate – this was never intended to be a discussion of the pros and cons. My only point in writing was to share a memory.
You say this was not meant to be a discussion bot the pros and cons of DDT, yet you continue to cite the pros…and minimize the cons…The CDC was pushing DDT for decades knowing full well it would bring down and damage the population of the USA. Check into Rockefeller obsession with population control if you doubt this. Mosquitos do not kill people. Malaria kills some that affected. USA had no problem with malaria. DDT was an act of terrorism.
Yup! Back in the late 60s out in the town of Cheshire, Mass. Same story! We’ hear the “fog truck” coming and we’d jump on our bikes and wait for it to pass by. Then we’d take of pedaling as fast as we could to read as deep within the “fog bank”. Our moms were always more worried about us getting hit by cars than anything else.
DDT bugs me. The problem is DDT is persistant in the environment. It is bad news for many organisms, such as birds frogs and fish. ultimately, probably for humans as well. It is one of those chems deemed unsafe even by the chemists. That should tell you something. It just never goes away, obviously, that is bad.
As far as mosquito mitigation goes, it is proven effective beyond many other chemical methods.
Mosquitoman SP??? Chemists also tell us there is GLOBAL WARMING…. Even after they were proven to have lied about the results when tested..
Actually, at the same time you were inhaling those DDT fumes, some of you were getting sick with polio. The very thing that was sprayed on children with a prayer that it would somehow keep you from the horrible fate of polio, has been very closely correlated with polio outbreaks. Polio began to decline before the vaccine was widely available but after DDT use fell off. The seasonality of the disease correlates with the summer spraying.
“The vaccination programs are irrelevant to the decline of polio, while pesticides correlate perfectly with polio. The unfunded, ostracized theory of poison causality far exceeds all other theories in simplicity, exactitude, and directness regarding correlations within all data areas: dosage, physiology, etiology, epidemiology, economics, and politics.”–Jim West
Here’s a website with lots of links about the correlation between DDT and polio outbreaks, including contemporary outbreaks in other countries.
It’s very compelling.
Thank you so much, Julie, for taking the time to share your research.
I am 65 and just spoke of doing this as a child in an army base in Georgia . We all thought this was great fun. I do have controlled asthma and sinus issues. My brother and sister who also ran behind the truck are older and they are fine.
Oh yes, I remember all too well! Wrote my own blog post about this years ago. Are you old too?!
We played in the fog, all the neighborhood kids would pile into the street and have a great time!!!!
OMG OMG OMG .. People stop blaming everything in the environment on your ailments. PEOPLE GET SICK.. PEOPLE GET DISEASE.. USUALLY IT’S GENETICS. Myself and all of my siblings ran behind those trucks and rode our bikes in it in a small town in Texas growing up.. NONE of us got cancer..
IF YOU GET CANCER it’s not because you smoke.. or somebody sprayed insecticide .. it’s because of your genetics.. or sometimes crap happens.. Please for the love of god stop believing every coincidental study that gets published by people looking for investors in their new product.
It’s the oldest game in the book, if you want to ruin the competition .. do a study that shows people get cancer more from that product.. they will be out of business in no time and you can laugh all the way to the bank.
When I first heard of DDT, we were young (eight yrs old) while living in Grand Junction, CO.. Junction is a Fruit Valley. I am sure there is other farming but at least three or so times a week, the trucks came down our Alleys…Mom would have us come into the house until the trucks were gone.. The spraying always happened during the day hours. We had all kinds of Fruit trees, and Berry Bushes in our yards.. OF COURSE OUR Moms said wash the fruit before you eat it… DID WE? No. A few years later when the GRAND COCKROACH began getting more prominent, THEY made a DDT BOMB.. My parents would load us up in the car and off to the Drive In Theater we would go.
Our parents would set a couple of bombs off and when we came home, there would be dead roaches, etc.. We slept on those pillows and covers, never to give it a second thought.. DDT in my opinion was a safe product that kept GERM carrying roaches, mosquitoes, and other bugs under control.(dead). These things that grow in our grass, the little worms that kill off our grass, well the crap we use today, does not kill the worms.. It’s just another way the government has created for us to spend money and keep the economy going in their favor.. GRUBS, BILL BUGS.. My daughter just came in and told me the names of the worms… DDT would have killed this off in no time.. They also used ddt for BED BUGS.. I remember my grandmother and mom, spraying our mattresses and bed clothing.. We had none of these bed bugs and today they are everywhere…
All of my sisters and brothers are alive and kicking.. I am 72.. So go figure, one older sister and three siblings under me.. This still does not make me feel good about Monsanto.. That is another can of worms..
Yes, and I believe this continued through the early 1960s in our neighborhood on the south shore of Long Island. We used to call it “Playing Outer Limits” to run behind the trucks and get lost in the fog. This referred to an episode of a popular sci-fi TV show in which a fog enshrouds a whole town. The idea was later used in the move “The Fog.”
I grew up on SAC (Strategic Air Command) bases and lived in the military housing. Our housing area was often sprayed and neighborhood kids followed the truck like it was the Pied Piper! I was outside but never played in the fog like my younger sister and neighbor kids did because I didn’t like the feeling of breathing it in. As a nurse, I fully understand the great benefits DDT has provided in eliminating mosquito-borne illnesses. However, my mother, younger sister, and myself all developed breast cancer, and my father colon cancer, all with no family history (yes I know most cancers present with no family history). My sister’s was especially aggressive, and she died with it. This was my entire family of four with cancer. Other family friends from the military have developed different cancers at a rate unusual for families, though not as unusual as my own. And all cancers presented before the age of 40, with the exception of my father whose presented before 50.
That being said, I have the same memories. I remember the kids running and skipping and, yes, dancing in the fog. It is a part of our history, like so many other things our country will never see again. As to the possibility of repercussions from playing in the fog, for me it is only out of concern for my daughters and granddaughters. A lot of things were done without knowing the possible effects; was that better than today when over-regulation prevents the possibility of the good something can do? A prime example is DDT; the stuff works, maybe we just don’t need to breathe it in.
AS, I feel that maybe something affiliated with the BASE might have caused your cancers other than ddt… What comes charging out of the engines on base could be
a huge reason… We actually lived with ddt all around us..
Sorry about you and your fam..
The Highest rate of Lymph node CANCERS in the country were from people, like myself, who lived on Long Island in the 60’s &70’s. This area is in the Top Ten percentile of the country. My SIster passed on due to this, another Sister was just diagnosed with this Cancer. My Mom passed away from Cushings Disease, which is Cancer of the Adrenal glands. You tell me. Coincidence or not. In my opinion, definitely NOT a Coincidence.
Larry Holden… We did not have the Trucks spoken of here.. We had trucks come in the daytime, ever other day or so.. They drove down the ALLEYS.. Our parents MADE us come in, until they were gone.. If I or my siblings had ever CHASED a TRUCK, my Father would have literally blistered our butts.. We ate from our fruit trees and berry bushes, without cleaning.. We laid on our pillows and bed clothing after our home was sprayed with DDT BOMBS, to kill roaches, and any other kind if insect.. Since
DDT has been taken off the Market, WE HAVE MUCH MORE CANCER THAN BEFORE.. Now where do you think this comes from? Don’t tell me your blaming it still on DDT? There were NEVER any studies to show or see if DDT caused these horrible diseases, but just a woman that FELT DDT was bad….Sounds like a democrat huh?
There will always be disease, illness, and until there is a known cure, we have to live with it and through it… Thank God for Salk Vaccine that did away with POLIO.
Today we have whooping cough, measles, cases of polio and many others.. We have such a cockroach problem in large cities, BED BUGS ARE AGAIN, and DDT took care of all of it.. PLEASE BRING BACK DDT. Malaria alone is reason enough. These diseases are being MARCHED in right over our UNGUARDED BORDERS…
The main reason I came into this site, there is an article saying MONSANTO MADE DDT.. I don’t think so and am looking for info on that subject when I found this site..
GOOD HEALTH TO ALL….
Grew up in Kanawha County, WV, the chemical capital of the world. The “BUG TRUCK” (actually a jeep) came through our neighborhoods much to our delight! We rode bikes following it until our legs tired. To my recollection there were no protests against our doing so either. And everyone wonders where I get my “glow”…
why do you need to spray DDT? mosquitos don’t cause illness. its your bad genetics that cause you to be sick. god put bugs on the planet for a reason. you should not be spreading your chemicals to change the environment. if you don’t want to be bitten by mosquitos, you should drink some ddt potion
I also ran behind the DDT trucks as a child in the early 1970’s. I currently don’t have cancer, that I know of…but here are a few facts about DDT that you might not know;
Chlorinated Hydrocarbons/DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane)- DDT is a type of pesticide that helps prevent the spread of disease by insects. DDT has a tendency to accumulate in an animal’s fatty tissues.
It was first synthesised in 1874. It’s insecticidal action was discovered by Paul Herman Muller and it was developed as a pesticide in the 1940’s.
DDT is a pollutant; a foreign substance not found in nature, introduced by humans.
-can travel long distances in the atmosphere
-takes a very long time for complete biodegradation (to break down by natural processes)
-it’s lipophilic- (accumulates in fat)
-it’s a human carcinogen (meaning it is bad for us)
-has neurological effects (affects the brain and nervous system in animals)
Additional Reading; book- Silent Spring (1962) written by Rachel Carson 1907-1964, warning of the dangers of misuse of pesticides
– In the 1960’s, it was noticed that there were decreasing populations of birds (e.g., Pelicanus occidentalis, Brown Pelican)
-it was found that nesting colonies had very few surviving chicks
-inhibition of calcium channels in cells- reduced transport of calcium from blood shell gland-causing thinner egg shells
-high concentrations of DDT were found in fat of adult pelicans
-high concentration of DDT were found in fishes (pelicans eat fishes) this is a case study in biomagnification- increase in concentration of a toxin as it is consumed and moves up the food chain
-DDT was banned by the EPA in 1972
-populations of P. occidentalis have increased since then
-Residues still present in populations and the environement
-Montrose Chemical-largest producer of DDT (1940-1970), illegally dumped in sewers off White’s Point , Palos Verdes, CA, it is the largest DDT contamination site in the world (110 metric tons)
-New data shows a decrease of 90% in DDT and other pollutants in the area, reason; unknown but could be due to one or more factors;
1) Bad data
2)landslide-pollutant covered by sediments
3) moving of shelf into deep water
4) degradation by loss of chlorine
-Genyonemus lineatus (The White Croaker) is a bottom feeding fish that tends to concentrate DDT and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) by the process of biomagnification
on a side note regarding reproductive harm; my wife has been pregnant twice but we lost both of them, they never survived to birth. Could this be in direct correlation to my running behind the DDT trucks in Massachusetts as a kid? I have no idea but I would not rule it out
Anyway, Happy Holidays to all, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy New Year!
Thank you for your information, Andrew. This is fascinating to read. I enjoy going back to the 2011 entries and seeing how this thread continues on into 2017.
Did anyone find out informstion between DDT, pesticides and Parkinson’s disease?
I now have learned about a second generation of Parkinson’s Disease in my family. Possibly waiting my turn.
We live and lived since 1962 between Rocky Mountain Arsenal (producer of nerve gases, abd later pesticides) and Rocky Flats (producer of Atomic bombs) both are at partially public parks and wildlife refuges with scenic bike paths.
Metro University is gathering data for those having lived near RF to find health patterns, death, etc. But, I have not heard anything about what,Rachel Carson labeled one of the most toxic places in the USA at one time, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, near Denver International Airport.
I am not sure I would be able to live through the disease for decades if I develop it.
Thank you, WWII and Cold War eras. Good times! Fun now, pay later! (I wrote above that we chased the fog trucks in western Nebraska until the ban of DDT. Made at RMA)
typo correction; environment, bad keyboard 🙂
I used to ride my bike after the “skeeter man” trucks with my cousins in Tennessee, who I would go visit in the summer.
I can’t tell you how many times I chased that damn truck (we thought it was a game, whoever got closest to the truck would get candy and soda from the other cousins) This happened in the 60’s, during my pre-teen years. However in 2007, I had the upper left lobe of my lungs surgically removed because it was “burned out”.The medical term is “cystic bullae”. I was treated at UC Irvine Medical Center in California. The doctors spent NINE MONTHS testing me because, a) they couldn’t believe I was still alive. b) the damage was only to one lung. My doctors called it a “medical miracle”.
Sadly, I still have medical problems that I believe stem from my exposure to DDT. My skin, especially my face, breaks out severely form time to time with no discernible cause. Truth be told, with what I have read about DDT and knowing how many countless lung fulls of that stuff I inhaled ( it’s was like “dry ice fog” it didn’t make you choke or gag), I wonder why I’m still alive today. And sadly no attorney I have spoken with says a have a case for damages for what I have suffered.
We always loved to jump on our bikes & follow the mosquito man. We were in the clouds & it seemed magical. Even our mothers called each other to let us kids know the truck was on it’s way. I just turned 60 & was diagnosed with Demyliating Disease. I have numerous lesions on my brain. Could this have been caused by the DDT we so anxiously inhaled?
I remember in the 1970s we would ride our bikes behind the bug man in O’Fallon, MO. Sure the fog didn’t have DDT in it anymore, but who knows what was in it and the health effects from it. I did develop asthma in my 40s but who knows if it’s related to this practice.
I had to send this address to my children, truth can be stranger than fiction. We did that whole fun routine in Syracuse, NY in the 1960’s, and yes, we thought it was hilarious waiting for and chasing the DDT fog truck. That fog was really dense, and if was a still day the fog lingered for a long time. I can’t speak to any health concerns that may or may not be related to this, all zi can say is that was an insane era…
Thank you, George! We need to make T-shirts and have a convention! Must be some fun people who lived to tell this story! I am glad so many are coming forward and talking about thus reality. Yes, we chased DDT trucks for fun!
What an era!
We did it as well, mid-1960’s! We’d scream, “THE FOG MAN IS COMING!!!” and a dozen kids would grab their bikes and chase the truck around the neighborhood. Good times!
Same here. They really were good times. Thanks for stopping by!
There are hundreds of scientific studies demonstrating the direct impact DDT had on bird populations – both song birds, and the birds of prey (bald eagles included) that feed on song birds. Hopefully a new insecticide can be developed to protect human populations from mosquito-borne illnesses. DDT certainly had a lasting impact on the environment, and could have led to extinctions of entire bird species had it no been banned. http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/11/us/bird-populations-rise-after-ddt-ban.html
Yes in the early to mid 1970s we kids would run behind the trucks in Tanglewood Park in North Caroline, while staying there for summer vacations. I really cannot say if the thick white clouds were DDT but they were anti mosquito.
I was a kid in the 60’s and lived along the shore in CT. I remember running behind the “bug mans” truck and the smell. Always wondered if that was the reason my sister got lupus at 14 yrs. old (she passed away at 50 yrs. old from it.) and one neighbor died of brain cancer at 17, another died from a rare disease in his twenties, another died of testicle cancer , also in his twenties, another got leukemia. Is that just a coincidence?
Well, what brought me to this page via Google was my wonder if perhaps riding my bike behind the fogger-truck has caused my recently diagnosed leiomyosarcoma. I’m 54 now, and chemo, radiation, and then a likely 2nd surgery start soon. Then, close monitoring for recurrence for at least 10 years.
So sorry to hear about your struggle. I wish you the best of health soon!
Also, you might want to check out what industries were in your area during your ealy years, like weapons plants, chemical plants that made or used pesticides, or storage facilities of waste nd so on. So many things,goung on then.
High levels of serum p,p’-DDT predicted a statistically significant 5-fold increased risk of breast cancer among women who were born after 1931. These women were under 14 years of age in 1945, when DDT came into widespread use, and mostly under 20 years as DDT use peaked. Women who were not exposed to p,p’-DDT before 14 years of age showed no association between p,p’-DDT and breast cancer (p = 0.02 for difference by age).
I read each one of your entries.
I lived on Long island throughout my childhood in the early fifties through the late sixties. There was spraying with DDT. My mother did her best to keep myself and my brothers and sisters inside the house, until the spraying was accomplished. I don’t think she was always successful.
I was curious. We were allowed back outside after the spraying was done, when the leaves still glistened with wetness of the pesticide.
It was a significant, a telling childhood memory that clings in uncertainty. I believe that perhaps individuals and families have specific proclivities based on familial genetics. You might also call them genetic frailties. Under the circumstances of spraying and breathing, exposure for each individual, their immune response, neurological reaction is perhaps based on their genetic map. Results for ensuing generations: mutations in chromosomes? I don’t know how human genetics work. I’ve been told I think too much. I read the heartache here and I can’t leave without acknowledging the din of valid uncertainty.
I remember them in the sixties when i was about 8 on selfridge air force base.I breathed a lot of that sh*t, but have never been sick.I’m 55 now and I recall the smoke making me cough, they sprayed every night after dark.I don’t remember any kind of warning or caution.
I grew up in Charlestown, Indiana where the US government built the I.AAP plant, a massive ammunition plant in the 1940’s. It was the largest employer in the area. Temporary housing was constructed for the workers at the ammo plant, and many are still being used today, although the city is involved in a court fight with residents of the old projects claiming eminent domain, and claim the old houses are not safe due to asbestos, lead paint and pipes, etc. .
I remember back, maybe the early 60’s, the ” bug man” would come thru town and we would chase it on our bikes. The heavy fog just rolled out from the truck, like a Pink Floyd concert just opening up on stage. I wondered if the city worker who rode in the back of the truck lived very long. He was constantly exposed to whatever chemicals were used. I always thought there was no telling what ingredients and chemicals were used. I’d say more than likely DDT, but I don’t know this for a fact. We would chase the Bug Man whenever we saw him coming. The city worker would yell out at us, Get away from the truck boys! He was kind of scary, maybe because we couldn’t see him. I didn’t realize that the Bug Man was in other cities, and that there were other young kids across the country that also thought it was fun to chase the bug man.
Mimi, this is so interesting and cintinuing to get cooments after six years. It is great to gather these in one place to get experiences from real people, not jyst case studies. I hope you keep it open. Kind of like a life of its own. I get updates for new comments. Could make a book at some point on its own, unedited! Thanks!
Thank you for your comment! We were just talking about that very thing – how all of these years later people are still commenting; how after many decades it is still such a fond memory and everyone has their own interpretation of whether or not it was good or dangerous. Thank you for sharing!
I have always wondered if my infertility and breast cancer are linked to my running behind the mosquito control truck at holiman air force base in the 60s.
I grew up in Hilo, Hawaii and running behind the mosquito spraying trucks was the highlight of our day. Impact on my health? I’m 72 and have run marathons (even the Big Island Marathon) and run triathlons without a problem. I was safer running behind the DDT trucks as a kid vs. my commute today with 18-wheeler trucks on I-95 in Washington, DC.
My dad was stationed in Sasebo, Japan later 50’s early 60’s
Running behind the DDT truth as it went through the neighborhood of other military families was fun!
I’m fine at 72, run 4x/week (not behind a truck lol)
My 71 yr old sister blames 2 younger siblings death on this activity (colon 62, esophageal 52)
How easily you forget what DDT really did and why it was taken off the market.
It had nothing to do with the effects on humans.
It had to do with it’s effect on the Flora and fauna.
Indicator species were being wiped out.
Eagles and birds of prey had egg shells so thin, their babies could not develop, hence the near extinction of several raptor species.
Do you not remember 8 and 12 kegged frogs, another indicator species?
The feminization of many fish species males, turtles and torti with misshapened shells? So on and so on up the evolutionary tree. The simpler the animal the more the effects.
While you are fondly remembering the fog trucks fondly remember what we all almost lost.
I remember running behind the truck. I was born in 1972 so ours had to stop around the late 70’s to early 80’s where i’m from in Illinois. Thanks for sharing this memory!
We used to call it “Smokey Joe” and would ride our bikes through it. Minot AFB 1968-72.
There is a scene in the movie “The Tree of Life” of children running behind the old Smokey Joe truck. Had not thought of that memory of my past life for 50+ years. Actually thought it might have been a unique experience for me and my friends living on the US Navy Air Base Oceana in Va. Beach, Va. Anyway after watching I instantly wondered if that was indeed DDT we were running after in the mid 1960’s. As I reviewed the search results And information on DDT (without mention of fogging trucks) I saw your post at the bottom of the page. Read through and enjoyed all the comments. You clearly ignited a strong but forgotten memory in many of us. Yes probably not a good idea in hindsight but what great exciting fun for us unaware, fearless, and indestructible youth’s. Thank you Mimi for the memories and congratulations on your thread that fails to end!
Thank you so much, Michael. I have been so surprised how this post seems to have a life of its own. It really was a fond memory. Thank you so much for commenting.
I also fondly remember riding my bike behind “The Fog Man” around 1967 or so.
Such a different life. Thanks for stopping by, Mark.
In the lower middle class neighborhood I grew up in in northeastern Ohio running through the DDT spray was one of the highlights of the mid-1950’s. It smelled great but it was hard getting rid of the smell for a day or two. Today a dozen people would be locked up for allowing kids to do that but I’m 72 and still “healthy.”
Totally agree, Tom. Glad you’re hale and healthy.
Oh boy, do I remember riding our bikes after the bug truck. Growing up on a barrier island, the truck would drive up and down the streets. The bug man yelling at us , we’re all laughing and getting dizzy. Never did see any odd turtles or frogs, and there were tons of them all over, but they did all disappear around the later ’70s early ’80s. No major illnesses, 2x visits a year to the Dermo. due to a lot of sun exposure these days, same with my parents now in their 80s. Sorry for those affected, not to make light of our youthful exuberance ! We were just thinking it was fun… 60 today, I’m not worried about that DDT exposure, but after 20+ years as a firefighter, who knows ?
Never to make light, but we have no idea what environmental issues caused what. It was a wonderful childhood memory when the world was different and so much more innocent. I understand burning Tupperware can wreak havoc 🥴, so thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your memory.
I remember the DDT truck in Arkansas, in the late 1960s. We neighborhood kids would walk or ride behind the DDT truck as it sprayed our neighborhood for mosquitos. This was just a few years after Rachel Carson’s famous book “Silent Spring” came out, but of course we had no knowledge of that and the smell attracted us like flies to honey. I think some of my breathing problems can be traced back to those days.
This comment thread is absolutely DDT best thing ever. 🦟🚛💨
I remember the ddt trucks but I would run to the house and help my mom shut all the windows and we would watch from the windows. I remember being able to play outside all evening long and not get bitten. Now I can’t walk from the car to the house without being covered in welts… day or night. Early evening is the worst. Swarms of them just everywhere.
I swear that’s why mosquitoes bite me and die, to this day! LOL
This is crazy! I was just telling my husband about this a few months ago. We chased the insecticide truck all the time. I do not really recall the fog though. Our trucks had metal tanks on the back that sprayed the stuff through several nozzles on each side of the tank. I will have to ask my brother about the fog.
What is really crazy is that we also chased after the crop dusting planes as they dropped insecticides across the fields. Did anyone else here chase the planes as well?
Not sure if any damage was done. My sister did end up getting breast cancer and both of my brothers and I developed COPD.
Different times for sure. It was fun though. Good to know we were not alone in this.
I was born in 72 and although they may have banned DDT in the mosquito man’s recipe, they fogged with kerosene almost every night in Louisiana. We’d sit on the porch eating (So we would not make a mess inside) our quickly melting ice cream from the ice cream man and watch the truck come through and fill the neighborhood with fog.
Just found this thread and it brought back memories! In East Texas men would ride into neighborhoods in trucks, then get out with foggers and walk around our houses spraying. I will never forget the horror of waking up from a nap and seeing a gas-masked face spraying into my bedroom window! I was 4 years old. From that day on, whenever my mom saw the “spraymen” coming she would hurry and close the windows and blinds because I would get hysterical!!
Confused why the people in this comments are talking about its effects on humans. The reason it was banned was because it kills so many harmless animals and disrupts the ecosystem.
“May” harm eagles but no proof? Um, the bald eagle and Peregrine falcon almost went extinct because of it. The international agency for research on cancer classified it as probably carcinogenic to humans. Just because you ran behind the truck and you’re ok doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with DDT.
Jumping on my bike and getting as close as possible to the “skeeter truck” as it drove by is one of the childhood memories I treasure. There were at least 6 of us that chased the truck, and I can’t speak for the rest, but 50+ years later I’ve never suffered any effects and kind of miss the smell (and yes, at least in NJ, there was a special odor attached to the mosquito spraying trucks).
Trucks sprayed the Little League fields each summer evening all summer long at the start of the games. in the city where I grew up – Gary Indiana- while family members were watching warm up. We kids would run through the clouds running into each other thinking it was so much fun because we could not see more than 12!inches ahead. 60 years later I remember the smell. I also now have Parkinson’s.
I suffer greatly from illness for being the fastest one behind those trucks. So close to the trucks and being showered with it as i inhaled the concentration from running so hard to be first. My children all have issues very young including my last one 25 years old with heart issues and soon my grandson will too. Most of my friends are dead because of it. If you are OK then lucky you. I’m lucky to be alive period. i do not drink, smoke or do drugs either. This was poison period.
Do you get money from a company that manufactures DDT or what? Most people who grew up in the 70s sure aren’t pining to bring DDT back lady. Go read the scientific studies behind why it was banned.