WASHINGTON (February 23, 2012) – Seeking to ban a World War II-era toxic weed killer ingredient called 2,4-D, the Natural Resources Defense Council today filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their failure to respond to a 2008 petition to cancel all registrations and revoke all tolerances of this known neurotoxin and ingredient in Agent Orange.
“This dangerous pesticide is lurking all over the place – from ball fields and golf courses, to front lawns and farms – exposing an enormous amount of the American public to cancer and other serious health risks,” said NRDC senior scientist Dr. Gina Solomon. “There’s no reason to continue allowing a toxic Agent Orange-ingredient in the places our children play, our families live and our farmers work. EPA must step up and finally put a stop to it.”
2,4-D is one of the oldest pesticides still legally on the market. Forty-six million pounds of 2,4-D are still used every year in the United States alone, applied, often via weed-and-feed products, to areas such as front lawns, playgrounds, and golf courses. Agricultural uses of 2,4-D include application to pasture land, timber, wheat, corn, soybeans, barley, rice, oats, and sugar cane.
Despite dozens of scientific studies that have long demonstrated 2,4-D’s link to cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cell damage, severe hormonal disruption, reproductive problems and birth defects, it remains the most commonly used conventional pesticide-based weed control product in the home and garden market and one of the top three pesticides sold nationwide today.
The pesticide has been detected in drinking water and as a contaminant in surface water and groundwater. The pesticide also lingers in soil for over a month after it is applied to lawns, meaning 2,4-D can easily finds its way into homes tracked in by shoes and pet paws. 2,4-D is classified by EPA as a hazardous air pollutant and by the State of California as a toxic air contaminant.
2,4-D can be absorbed through the skin, making anyone who applies it or is in contact with lawns or surface water near application at risk of exposure. As a result, young children who crawl on carpets or play on the floor are most vulnerable to indoor exposure by hand-to-mouth ingestion, skin absorption, and inhalation of dust.
The NRDC lawsuit, which calls for EPA to respond to a petition to ban 2,4-D, 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 through April.
Toxic 2,4-D is expected to be used in even greater quantities as weeds have become increasingly resistant to Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup. If Dow Agrosciences’ genetically modified 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybean crops gain USDA approval, use of 2,4-D could increase by 50-fold or more. This will put thousands more Americans at unnecessary risk and further contaminate our air and water. Also, wide-scale application of 2,4-D threatens other crops grown downwind, as well as trees, landscaping, and vegetable gardens, since these plants are easily damaged or killed by 2,4-D.
“We cannot ignore the serious harm 2,4-D poses to human health and safety any longer,” said Nick Morales, NRDC attorney. “EPA already understands the health threats. Now the agency needs to act on them.”