Disney-logoed DDT-impregnated wallpaper for the kids' room (1947)

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48 Responses to “Disney-logoed DDT-impregnated wallpaper for the kids' room (1947)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    That is disgusting. And a testament to our country’s love of releasing shoddy products to children before realizing they cause cancer.

  2. newtomato says:

    Awesome! My baby has this paper, along with her compressed-asbestos crib (fireproof!), and I regularly give her benzene baths to kill germs!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is DDT harmful to children, or just to bald eagles? I suppose you could raise both from infancy and see what happens…

  4. DimensionalPunk says:

    My dad said he used to play in the DDT fog they sprayed from trucks. Maybe DDT created the hippies.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, that was Robert Heinlein.

    • Doug Nelson says:

      Yes, my friends and I used to play behind the DDT truck. It was fun because the truck only drove about 5mph, and the fog was very thick and opaque. We’d play hide and seek, and a kind of running limbo contest (well, fast walking). We’d even site on the back of the truck and use our hands to send “smoke signals” and make patterns with the DDT fog.

      No, I didn’t turn out to be a hippie, I was too young.

  5. Dv Revolutionary says:

    It works. On interior walls is where DDT is still allowed to be used and where it is effective. It’s not like your spaying the fields with it and putting it into the environment, your keeping mosquitos out and killing the ones that touch the walls. In equatorial regions where malaria is a problem this is a sane thing to do for any home.

    That said this ad sure does oversell the stuff and fear-monger without proof. I’m sure little of this wall-paper went to equatorial regions or fought much malaria.

    • Jonathan Badger says:

      Although the human health hazard from DDT is not as major as it is sometimes presented to be in first world nations, there is the unfortunate fact that it is becoming less and less useful even where it is still used — much like the case with bacteria and antibiotics, mosquitoes are evolving DDT resistance quickly. Plus there is the whole eggshell problem (maybe less of a concern for indoor use, though)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Seeing as how this particular use of DDT is exactly how DDT is being used even today in malaria-prone areas of the world, it would seem to me that the claims in the ad are, pretty much, true and still applicable. It is also recognized as one of the best, and least damaging to the environment, ways of applying DDT to the task of protecting humans from disease vectors, and preventing these vectors from becoming immune.

    If these were still around to buy, it would make a lot of sense to buy them up, and ship to sub-saharan Africa and other regions where malaria is still killing thousands every year.

  7. theLadyfingers says:

    DDT is a shockingly effective bug killer and relatively non-toxic to humans for it’s efficacity. Since it’s so effective on bugs, it means it can be used in lower quantities than other equally toxic pesticides, which is even better for people.

    The idea of DDT wallpaper for malarial regions is pretty good, as it doesn’t enter the environment until the paper is removed, which is good since it can be destroyed and the DDT with it. Beats the Hell out of spraying pesticides. It’s probably a better idea to put it out of reach on the ceiling, though.

  8. Anonymous says:

    DDT was never really associated with human health problems, but more so ecological ones like egg-shell thinning in bird eggs.

  9. greengestalt says:

    And there’s a growing theory that the absence of DDT might be behind the resurgence in bedbugs… DDT lasts a long time, and a lot was hoarded and/or soaked like mad in new homes, so only now is it all gone from the human environment.

    But, here’s the kicker. With perhaps only the exception of Bedbugs, most other bugs (esp Roaches) grew very resistant to DDT. More and more and more had to be sprayed with less and less effect. However, the damage to birds was real. The Bald Eagle was facing extinction. Might be good to find some DDT for baseboard spraying in a bedbug infestation to test it with, but if they put it back on the shelves, wouldn’t be a day before some yuppie jogger carried it with him to spray the “Nature run” so bugs wouldn’t bite him.

    I was a little kid back then. I remember getting scolded for handling wild bird eggshells my parents (and/or friends) saved for “University collection” and they’d just fallen apart in my hands like powder. Holding the same kind of eggs these days, I’d have to hit them against something to break them though I’m far stronger.

    It’s kind of like “lake Eerie” that used to catch fire. There used to be a ton of visible pollution and quite noticeable effects. The laws passed decades ago did a great help reducing them. However, the good they did is now used against them by the “Climate Change Deniers” who are used by the companies that hate having to obey the rules to deny that there ever was any significant man-made effects on the environment.

  10. zyodei says:

    How funny – my wife and I were having a discussion about this very topic – the efficacy vs. safety of spraying DDT on walls in homes – just 1 hours ago.

    In fact, the case against DDT is not such an open and shut thing – for instance, in 1960 or so, Sri Lanka started a heavy spraying campaign, lowering incidence of malaria from 3 million per year to 29. One can make the argument that DDT has saved the lives of countless numbers of the poorest people in the world, and it’s condemnation has killed many.

    On the other hand, mosquitoes do develop a resistance to it, and it does contaminate the environment, showing up for instance in mother’s milk.

    All things considered, limited spraying on walls/insertion in wallpaper in less developed countries is probably a reasonable way to balance its efficacy and low cost with environmental concerns.

  11. rebdav says:

    I remember an ethics prof in college stating that there was one woman, Rachel Carson author of Silent Spring, at the forefront off the DDT ban. He posited that she was responsible for more human death from malaria than all the wars and genocide in the 20th century. His point was that the risk vs benefit decision on banning DDT was made by western manufacturing nations and the price was paid by third world people who were never able to find a substitute as safe to use near humans but so deadly for bugs. We also had to discuss the human life cost against the effects on large birds and non problematic insects. From my research it seems that the malarial deaths are due more to resistance the to the ban, but DDT seems like a safe enough thing to use near kids compared to the other stuff they were exposed to in the 40′s through the 60′s.

  12. Antinous / Moderator says:

    In the fifties and sixties, one of your parents would come into your room when you went to bed, you’d pull the sheets over your head and then they’d saturation-spray Raid® all over the room and the bedding.

  13. BCJ says:

    Wow, I am pretty sure that my sister’s bedroom had the bottom wallpaper when we were growing up. It was already installed, so we had no idea it had DDT.

    I don’t really have any relevant to add to this discussion. Just a surprising amount of Nostalgia.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Before everybody gasps in horror, let’s please put this into perspective…this wallpaper was sold before anybody had any idea what the real effects of DDT really were…THEY DIDN’T KNOW.

    See also the comments about relatively low toxicity to humans and the ongoing (and successful) use of DDT in a similar fashion in developing nations.

    Or perhaps you’d rather have parents in developing nations watch their children die of malaria and encephalitis. Now THERE’s some compassion.

    • Yamara says:

      Oh, THEY DIDN’T KNOW.

      Kinda like the Winston ads featuring the Flintstones, or fiberglass advertised for kitchen drapes?

      Kinda like those posters at BB so unfamiliar with the basics of irony and postmodern deconstruction that their every appearance has to come with an explanation?

      THEY DIDN’T KNOW.

  15. Yamara says:

    Why is everything here so full of hidden demons tonight?

  16. omnifrog says:

    I’m so happy to see that so many BoingBoing readers understand that DDT has likely saved far more lives than any other chemical ever invented. And that, like all chemicals, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

    Here’s an interesting op-ed from the WSJ:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB113141500661590763.html

  17. Yamara says:

    Here’s an interesting science-ed from Scientific American (May 2009):

    Should DDT Be Used to Combat Malaria?
    DDT should be used “with caution” in combating malaria, a panel of scientists reported today

    Science!

  18. Anonymous says:

    And now, we have Triclosan in everything from soap and toothpaste, to socks and air filters.

  19. thequickbrownfox says:

    Thankfully we now have the Snuggie and the Shamwow which will protect today’s children from all toxins.

  20. pacotelic says:

    THIS IS A GOOD IDEA. DDT was effective and safe so long as it focused on the interior of buildings. Using it as a pesticide or an attempt to kill every insect in subdivisions built on swamps was the bad idea that led to the Silent Spring and its banning.

    If used right, like this, DDT is beneficial. No environmental bad is this cartoonishly bad, with the possible exception of Agent Orange.

  21. Anonymous says:

    This looks to date from the late 40′s-early 50′s. No, they didn’t know. Even in the early 70s, I remember the news articles coming out as the realization began to hit that the decline in predator avian species was because of DDT.

    (Please note: I’m not saying that NOBODY knew…but the average public and the average wallpaper salesman DIDN’T KNOW.)

    My parents (and scores of other parents of my generation) smoked like chimneys — our mothers while they were pregnant, and around us all the time. My dad apologized to me one day as I came home from an allergist — that when I was little they had no idea that secondhand smoke often initiates allergies in small children…and that had they had any inkling that their habit would become allergies that my sister and I have to live with, they’d have both quit cold turkey on the spot.

    Sometimes, no….they didn’t know.

  22. dr says:

    Please don’t eat, lick, smell, or even touch this wallpaper.

    Just look at it.

  23. tantan says:

    Where was this ad published?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Funny considering DDT never killed anyone. See article: http://spectator.org/archives/2005/02/25/ddt-fraud-and-tragedy

  25. Anonymous says:

    It makes you laugh at first but then you think, who knows, maybe objects that we used everyday will turn out to be harmful and our grandchildren will laugh at us! Who knows maybe wifi is slowly frying our brains but we will only find out in 10 years time…

  26. Anonymous says:

    Geez, you people realize that DDT was harmful because of it’s use on a massive scale with agriculture, right? Like when it was being dumped by the metric ton!

    Realistically, the DDT in this wallpaper is probably less harmful that the chemicals in the plastic bottle you give your baby.

    Let me make it simple:
    Massive DDT use on crops: bad.

    But I guess no-one is going to get past the “OMG! CHEMISTRY” hysteria people have nowadays.

  27. j9c says:

    See http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33482 for what the dependably thorough Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database has to say about DDT. It’s pretty ugly and does refer to human health impacts, not just eggshells.

    My dad the organic chemist always said that it’s the dose the makes the poison, but maybe he was neglecting to factor in the bioaccumulative toxins, which are very difficult to remove from fatty tissue once in.

    Any parent of children knows full well that kids touch, rub and otherwise handle the walls all the time. Come check our house’s white walls replete with smudges. Putting DDT on anything that could be in reach of children (whose small bodies metabolize and accumulate toxins much faster than bigger grownup bodies) is an invitation to health disaster. Even if those health impacts aren’t immediate, obvious, dramatic or fully understood.

  28. jmanooch says:

    It has gay patterns too.

  29. ADavies says:

    For folks who want to read up on DDT, I suggest this Discovery magazine article (and this one).

    The short of it – The 70′s era environmentalists were right. (Though maybe there’s a limited use for the stuff in some places, if done in a smart way, for limited periods.)

    Good commentary on the DDT ban and Africa here.

  30. Anonymous says:

    It’s true that Rachel Carson’s DDT hysteria was an indirect death sentence for tens of thousands, and the resultant DDT ban has had a serious effect on third world public health. Interestingly, the parts of her book that are most relevant today are the parts which talk about the excesses of spraying practices rather than DDT itself – how, for example, inundation was the norm, and companies were paid by the gallon dispensed, and most importantly, the delivery method.

    Turns out DDT isn’t harmful to humans unless it’s able to be transported through the skin. This means it has to be dissolved in oil. DDT-impregnated wallpaper is thus a very good idea in tropical countries – in my own house in Singapore that I lived in for several years, I can partially credit the DDT-impregnated wallpaper for preventing me from getting a single mosquito bite while I lived there.

  31. Anonymous says:

    “They didn’t know.” Well, the ad refers to flies spreading measles and “dread polio.” I’m pretty sure science had ascertained the transmission mode of measles and polio, and flies it ain’t. I think the advertisers overstate their case (i.e., lied).

  32. coverandwait says:

    My baby room, it got mad Trimz. Word.

  33. cryptique says:

    Wow. I have to say that I’m shocked at how many Boingers have been suckered by those who claim that bans on DDT have killed millions, or that it’s not harmful to humans and/or wildlife. Bottom line, this is a dangerous chemical, and even though it did prove effective in reducing malaria for a time, the insects adapted and developed resistance to it. The long-term cost in damage to humans and wildlife far outweighs the short-term benefit of a temporary reduction in malaria.

    The pro-DDTers are just free-market zealots who object to any kind of regulation. Don’t be fooled by these dangerous idiots. Oh, and don’t tar Rachel Carson’s name — read Silent Spring for yourself and find out what she really said about DDT.

  34. MrJM says:

    I think I’ll just have William Burroughs come by again and give the kid’s bed another good dusting…

  35. heckblazer says:

    In 1947 malaria was still endemic in parts of the US, so the product wasn’t that crazy.

    DDT has never been banned for disease vector control; the main restriction in its use to control malaria has been resistance caused by its overuse in agriculture. The whole DDT ban killing millions story was spread by the tobacco industry as a way to discredit the World Health Organization. Seriously, here’s one of the memos: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/xvp83c00#search=%22africa%20fighting%20malaria%22)

  36. bjacques says:

    I’ve still got a bunch of lickable, glow-in-the-dark decals promoting Disney’s 1959 documentary “The Story of Radium.” Any takers?

  37. Anonymous says:

    DDT causes damage to DNA. That’s why we don’t use it anymore.

  38. ADavies says:

    Thanks #28 for the very cool find!

    For anyone wanting a ballanced view, I suggest this Discovery magazine article (and this one while you’re at it).

    The short of it – The 70′s greenies were absolutely right for wanting a ban on agricultural spraying. (That’s not really disputed.)

    The article goes on to say that if used in a smart way, for a limited time, the benifits could outweigh the harm.

  39. Suburbancowboy says:

    it’s “Certified” to be absolutely safe for home use!
    Of course it is safe! DDT is brought to you by your friends at Monsanto.
    They have a long track record of bringing safe and environmentally friendly products to market.

  40. victorvodka says:

    some posts are raving about how rachael carson killed more people than hitler. some posts are raving about how crazy it was to subject the children to ddt. some people are raving about the copyright implications of donald duck and mickey mouse coexisting in the same unpaid brandspace. here are the facts:

    1. ddt is not especially poisonous for humans or other mammals
    2. ddt is deadly to insects, spiders, fungi, and other life forms that use chitin in their bodies. this has environmental implications.
    3. ddt affects shell thickness in bird eggs, leading to bird population crashes where it is used.
    4. insects and other life forms develop ddt resistance after several dozen generations, rendering it useless wherever it is applied routinely
    5. human populations explode in places where malaria risk is suddenly and dramatically reduced
    6. exploding human populations destroy the ecological fabric they depend on

  41. Ito Kagehisa says:

    VictorVodka is correct.

    The other stuff is political memes. Don’t be a tool.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=nets+for+malaria

  42. mr_josh says:

    This ad is one more piece of evidence supporting a theory of mine: babies used to be a lot uglier. I’m glad someone did something about that.

  43. webmonkees says:

    I’d rather have bugs and birds than no bugs and no birds.

    “existed for millions of years, and then the apes went and took out the last of the dinosaurs to swat a bug.”

  44. EMJ says:

    I have friends who found arsenic drenched wallpaper (earliy 1900′s) in their attic when doing renos. It was supposed to keep the lice away.

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