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DDT, Aerosol Cans and WWII

With millions of troops moving into tropical and subtropical campaigns, WWII military leaders and planners sought ways to fight diseases endemic to these regions. Two WWII era innovations were combined to save the lives of many combatants during the war years. Malaria was the primary concern at the time.

Malaria was commonly avoided by prophylactic treatments with quinine. Larger doses could be given to those known to be infected. Quinine came from the bark of a South American shrub that came to be grown on commercial plantations in the South Pacific. The Japanese occupied these plantations early in the war, and substitutes for it were less effective.

In 1939, Paul Hermann Muller discovered that dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) effectively killed insects.. In 1943 tests showed it to be effective against the mosquitoes that carried malaria, and the US Military started using it. At first they used hand pumps that pressurized a canister, and applying DDT this way replaced spraying fuel oil in streams and ditches. In 1948 Muller received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery.

USDA researchers Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan developed the first effective aerosol spray can in 1941. There were earlier patents for aerosol spray, but no one had yet made an effective disposable canister. Goodhue and Sullivan were looking for ways to spray insecticides, and found a way to compress chlorofluorocarbon gases in a can with the chemical to be dispersed. With a valve at the top that controlled emission of the contents, the active chemical was carried by the expanding carrier gas

Combining DDT with a working disposable aerosol can, the US military was able to give its troops a way to spray inside tents, nets and clothes to kill mosquitoes (and just about all the other insects that came in contact).

Dr. Lyle D. Goodhue, 1942

In the 1970s scientists showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosol cans and refrigeration, were causing a degradation of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. Ozone is a toxic pollutant at ground levels, but a concentrated layer of ozone high in the atmosphere shields the Earth’s surface from a large amount of ultra-violet radiation from the sun. Regulations in the US and around the world phased out the use of CFCs as propellants first, and then as refrigerants, by the late 1980s. Metal spray cans are more rare now, but they dominated the shelves of stores for many decades of the 20th century.

Both products have since been removed from sale due to side effects.

From: the National WWII Museum, New Orleans

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor –

How’s this for recycling? We get some heavily polluted air, put it an aerosol can, and use it as an insecticide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Ashcroft – Wilmington, DE; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS LCI – 688 / Korea

Russell Bishop – Wickenburg, AZ; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Frank M. Fonte – Northport, NY; US Navy, WWII

Russell Harvey (105) – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, WWII

Hal Holbrook – Cleveland, OH; US Army, WWII, SSgt. / beloved actor

Bruce Mock – Dodge City, KS; US Army, Japanese Occupation, Sgt. Major, 808, 836th Engineering Battalion

Eugene Reilly (100) – Boston, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 2nd Lt., 3rd Infantry Division

Robert Skyles – Hill City, ID;US Navy, WWII, PTO

Irwin Stahl – Delray Beach, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/ 187/11th Airborne Division

Robert Max Willocks – Maryville, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO

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