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Despite dozens of scientific studies that link the toxic pesticide 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid) to cancer and other health risks such as cell damage, hormonal interference, and reproductive problems, 46 million pounds of 2,4-D are applied to U.S. lawns, playgrounds, golf courses, and millions of acres of agricultural land every year. This toxic pesticide contaminates our air and water, finds its way into our homes where it poses a higher risk to children, and the use of 2,4-D could be on the rise if new genetically modified corn and soybean crops are approved. To protect the health of thousands of Americans, NRDC recommends that the Environmental Protection Agency restrict use of 2,4-D and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture not allow new 2,4-D Ready crops on the market.

2,4-D is Linked to Cancer and Reproductive Health Concerns

Over the past 40 years, dozens of studies have shown the connection between 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancers of the blood) and soft-tissue sarcoma in people. Other research reveals that 2,4-D enters breast milk and semen where it disrupts normal hormone functions, which can also cause serious and lasting effects during fetal and infant development. In fact, in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, researchers have found higher rates of certain birth defects in areas with the highest use of 2,4-D and other similar herbicides. The higher rate of birth defects was most evident in infants conceived in the spring—the time of year when the herbicide is most used. Those birth defects were significantly higher in males, and consisted mostly of cardiac and lung abnormalities. Young children are most at risk for indoor exposure to 2,4-D because they crawl and play on the floor, and then put their hands in their mouths, or the chemical residue from the floor is then absorbed into their skin or inhaled.

Five Ways to Protect Yourself from Lawn Pesticide Risks

  • Avoid buying lawn-care products that contain "weed and feed" combinations.
  • By taking shoes off at the door, you won't track pesticides into your home from outside.
  • Vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.
  • Check with your child's school and the local parks to make sure they don't use products that contain 2,4-D.
  • Take action all the way to the steps of Washington by telling the EPA to restrict 2,4-D, and by telling the USDA to ban genetically modified crops designed for use with this toxic pesticide.

What NRDC is Doing to Protect You

NRDC has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the EPA for its failure to respond to a petition to ban 2,4-D, which comes on the heels of aggressive pushes by agricultural biotechnology companies eager to win U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval of newly engineered and pesticide-resistant crops. Dow Agrosciences is petitioning to deregulate its 2,4-D-resistant genetically engineered crops with USDA, for which the agency is currently accepting public comments. NRDC strongly recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture not allow new 2,4-D Ready crops on the market and is requesting the Environmental Protection Agency prohibit the use of 2,4-D.

last revised 3/8/2012

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