Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 461–472 | Cite as

A novel method to infer historical DDT use on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA), based on ΣDDT degradation and 210Pb dating in lake sediment cores

  • Beth J. FeingoldEmail author
  • Gaboury Benoit
Original paper


Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane was used on Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA), for mosquito and gypsy moth mitigation, from 1948 until the insecticide was banned in the 1970s. There are historical accounts of major spray events, and DDT was expected to have remained immobile in the organic-rich sediments of local ponds. We investigated the potential for sediment cores from lakes on Cape Cod to reveal the depositional history of DDT. This compound and its metabolites dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (ΣDDT) were examined in sediment cores from four kettle lakes on Cape Cod that lie between the towns of Brewster and Harwich, where there is a detailed history of aerial spraying. Sediment cores were dated via 210Pb and analyzed for water content, total carbon, total organic carbon, and organochlorine pesticide concentrations. Use of fallout 137Cs to confirm 210Pb dates was unsuccessful, probably because of post-depositional migration of 137Cs. ΣDDT inventories in each lake were determined to be ~ 10 ng cm−2, which represents about 0.1% on an aerial basis of the quantity known to have been sprayed. Compared to the recorded spraying history, the concentration-depth maxima appear decades later than expected. The overall low quantity and unexpected temporal distribution of pesticide residues are probably explained by natural degradation of DDT in the sediment. A novel mathematical correction to DDT concentrations was applied and yielded adjusted inventories close to expected values, and moved the pesticide concentration maxima to the 1950s and 1960s, when they were expected to have occurred.


137Cs 210Pb DDT Sediment Lake 



This research was funded by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (Yale FES) Summer Internship Fund, the Carpenter/Sperry Grant for Summer Research administered by Yale FES, and the Silent Spring Institute. We thank Walter Krol from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station for running samples on the gas chromatograph, Helmut Ernstburger and Jonas Karosas at Yale FES for their guidance in the laboratory, Joel Creswell for his help in sample collection, and Rebecca Barnes and Abbey Steele for their help in sample preparation. We thank Ruthann Rudel and Julia Brody from Silent Spring Institute for their advice on this project. We thank Rebecca Barnes, Brian Leaderer, Christipher Higgins, and Ruthann Rudel for their helpful comments on various versions of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10933_2018_34_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University at Albany School of Public HealthState University of New YorkRensselaerUSA

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