• Question: why is DDT known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane?

    Asked by file14 to Akram, David, Gill, Jack, laurenceharwood on 20 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Jack Snape

      Jack Snape answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      I think that’s one for Laurence 🙂

    • Photo: Laurence Harwood

      Laurence Harwood answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      OK, It is quite simple if you know a little bit about chemical nomenclature but it helps to be able to look at the actual chemical structure of DDT. Check out Wikipedia at:


      The “dichlorodiphenyl bit refers to the two benzene rings (called phenyl groups), each one with a chlorine atom on it (conveniently labelled “Cl”). They are both attached to a two carbon chain (ethane), the other carbon of which has had all its hydrogens replaced with three chlorine atoms (trichloro).

      If that is OK with you – this is where it gets bd. The name was used in the agrochemical industry at a time when people were less rigorous and it is in fact not correct!!! The correct name for DDT is:

      1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane which would probably have given it an acronym of TBCE. However, don’t worry – no unscrupulous manufacturer is going to get away with trying to sell it under that name will get away with it. The authorities are wise to that one!

      I hope this helps 🙂

    • Photo: Gill Menzies

      Gill Menzies answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Thanks Laurence for the correction 🙂
      DDT was used heavily in the 1960’s for pest control (insects, mosquitos, lice). One problem was that some insects and pests became resistent to DDT. The DDT spread on crops was then consumed by humans and it was found that the DDT stayed in our bodies as a toxin. It concentrated in places like the thyroid, liver, kidneys and fatty tissues. DDT also ended up in our water courses as it washed off the land, and then it ended up in fish (that we eat), and in birds (as they eat the insects). Bird egg shells were found to get thinner making reproduction difficult and endangering ceratin species. So, all in all, whatever it’s name, it’s not nice stuff. We have learned a lot of lessons about toxins and pesticides since this time and have more thorough testing procedures now. 🙂

    • Photo: Akram Alomainy

      Akram Alomainy answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Cannot add more to the great answers below 😉 Seriously guys I am learning something new everyday … amazing experience 😉