NRDC petitions EPA to ban 2,4-D: An Agent Orange chemical doesn't belong on lawns

If you've used a pesticide on your lawn in the past 60 years, there's a good chance you've used 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (aka 2,4-D) - a carcinogen that was also one-half of the recipe for the infamous Agent Orange.

2,4-D is a herbicide in the phenoxy chemical family, used at about 46 million pounds annually in the U.S. -  about 30 million pounds in agriculture and 16 million pounds for non-agriculture uses like lawns.

NRDC today petitioned the EPA to ban 2,4-D, the most commonly used active ingredient in "home and garden" pesticides. 2,4-D is also one of the oldest pesticides still legal for use. Even though safer and more effective pesticides are available - 2,4-D is often more affordable.

2,4-D is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health risks ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities. It's also neurotoxin linked in animal studies to side effects like brain cell death, Parkinson's-like tremors, delays in brain development and abnormal behavior patterns.

Pregnant women and children are most susceptible to these potential effects.

At home, 2,4-D is used to control aquatic weeds in water where people may swim, on athletic fields, golf courses and playgrounds. It's also used agriculturally - sprayed on our food supply, including pasture land, wheat, corn, soybeans, barley, rice, oats and sugar cane.

It shows up in about half of all surface water samples nationwide, and the groundwater of at least five states and Canada. Once tracked indoors - such as from the bottom of a shoe - 2,4-D can stay in your carpet for up to a year. And if you're enjoying a beer or a glass of wine on that carpet - take extra caution. The chemical is absorbed by your body more easily if you're consuming alcohol, wearing sunscreen or using DEET. Infants can take in the chemical through breast milk.

In short - 2,4-D is everywhere, and it's dangerous, particularly for our children. The government has allowed this hazardous herbicide to stay on the market for far too long. In light of all the evidence of the numerous, varied health risks associated with this popular pesticide, the EPA has a responsibility to protect human health and environmental integrity by banning highly hazardous old-school chemicals like 2,4-D.

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Federal Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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