chemical information


Chemical Class:

Organochlorine Pesticide (OC)

Manufacturing/Use Status

banned for use/manufacture in the U.S.

Found in these people:

Davis Baltz, Andrea Martin, Lexi Rome, Sharyle Patton, Bill Moyers, Lucy Waletsky, Kathy Fowler, Anonymous Adult 1, U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter, Sara Corbett

Found in these locations:

Berkeley, CA; Sausalito, CA; Mill Valley, CA; Bolinas, CA; NJ, USA; Pleasantville, NY; Rockville, MD; Upstate New York, NY; NY, USA


The most recent National Toxicology Program Report on Carcinogens list DDT as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" (NTP 2002). DDT is considered to be a "probable" human carcinogen by the EPA, associated with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myelomas. Some studies have detected increased risk of lung cancer in workers exposed to DDT. Weak associations have been made between DDT and another DDT metabolite, DDD, and pancreatic cancer. An association with breast cancer is equivocal, with some studies finding a positive relationship while others do not. In humans, DDT poisoning can result in excitability, tremors, seizures, dizziness, headache, fatigue, vomiting and altered liver enzyme activity (ATSDR 2002a). A recent study in humans compared the length of gestation in children born between 1959 and 1966, when DDT use was widely used in the US, with maternal levels of DDE (a metabolite of DDT) taken from stored blood samples. Levels of maternal DDE were strongly associated with pre-term birth and birth weight, which was corrected for "gestational" age (Longnecker 2001).

Effects of DDT in laboratory animals include liver tumors, lung tumors, leukemia, adrenal toxicity (tumors, cellular effects of the adrenal cortex and medulla), thyroid toxicity (decreased capacity to concentrate iodide), kidney toxicity and immune system toxicity. Neurotoxic effects of DDT include tremors, convulsion, paralysis, decreased central nervous system lipid, phospholipid and cholesterol content. DDT exposure early in life causes decreased growth, mortality, decreased levels of brain muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, increased spontaneous motor activity in adulthood and decreased learning. In the female, DDT causes numerous effects on the reproductive system, including decreased fertility, early pregnancy loss, increased uterine weight (a sign of estrogenicity), altered estrous cycling (the rodent equivalent of menstrual cycle) and early onset of puberty. In males, DDT causes decreased testis weight and decreased testosterone content in the testes (ATSDR 2002a).


Organochlorine chemical, a class largely banned in the U.S. that builds up in the body over time, linked to cancer and reproductive harm.

4,4'-DDT has been found in 14 of the 27 people tested in EWG/Commonweal studies. It has also been found in 1,182 of the 4,821 people tested in CDC biomonitoring studies.

Top health concerns for 4,4'-DDT (References)

health concern or target organ weight of evidence
Reproduction and fertilityunknown

Results for 4,4'-DDT

in blood serum (lipid weight)

Showing results from EWG/Commonweal Study #1, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults, EWG/Commonweal Study #4, industrial chemicals and pesticides in cord blood, San Francisco Reporter, EWG Study #3, industrial chemicals and pesticides in adults, EWG Study #8, chemicals in mother and 2 children

EWG/Commonweal results

  • geometric mean: 0.207 ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 14 of 27 people in the group

CDC biomonitoring results

  • geometric mean: 6.55 ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum
  • found in 1182 of 4821 people in the group
ng/g (lipid weight) in blood serum 3610

4,4'-DDT results

Detailed toxicity classifications (References)

classification governing entity/references
Reproductive effects - weight of evidence unknown/unassessedDamgaard, I. N., N. E. Skakkebaek, et al. (2006). Persistent pesticides in human breast milk and cryptorchidism. Environ Health Perspect 114(7): 1133-8.