The widely used farm chemical known as 2,4-D – a key ingredient in a new herbicide developed by the Dow company – “possibly” causes cancer in humans, a World Health Organisation research unit has said.
The classification of the weed killer, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, was made by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). ... epidemiological studies provided “strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress … and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression”.
Among the research presented to IARC was an analysis funded by a Dow-backed group that found no ties between 2,4-D and many cancers.
Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co, has had a particular interest in IARC’s review. The company is using both glyphosate and 2,4-D in a herbicide it calls Enlist Duo that received US approval last year. Enlist Duo is designed to be used with genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant crops developed by Dow.
What’s Wrong With 2,4-D Herbicide?
So, what’s wrong with “a profound increase” in the use of 2,4-D herbicide? First, some scary information, copied verbatim from the National Pesticide Information Center’s fact sheet on 2,4-D:Because 2,4-D has demonstrated toxic effects on the thyroid and gonads following exposure, there is concern over potential endocrine-disrupting effects.
Work examining incidents of exposure to 2,4-D without simultaneous exposure to 2,4,5-T [which has been banned] has found some association between 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
2,4-D was detected at low concentrations in urine samples collected from all age groups in a large study of the American public.
Traces of 2,4-D were detected in 49.3 percent of finished drinking water samples and 53.7 percent of untreated water samples.
Looking beyond the imminent threats to clean water and health posed by much heavier use of 2,4-D, there is an unanswered question about 2,4-D and dioxins, one of the most potent and persistent group of carcinogens on the planet. Although many known sources of dioxins have been eliminated or controlled, nobody can explain why right now, today, there are enough dioxins in a conventionally produced hot dog to exceed a child’s dietary maximum for the day.
It is suspected that dioxins may be entering the food chain through tainted or substandard batches of 2,4-D, which is sold under more than 80 trade names, often combined with other herbicides, and it is widely available as a generic herbicide at farm supply stores nationwide. The chemical was once manufactured close to home, but current supplies often have international origins and come from chemical plants in Argentina, China, India or Russia. The United States government has decided that these are all trustworthy sources, and has no reality check in place to validate this belief.
The dioxin issue came into sharp focus in Australia last year, when investigative journalists found high levels of dioxin in supplies of 2,4-D (the same supplier that provides 2,4-D to American customers).
House approves bill to overhaul chemical regulation
The House on Tuesday approved a bipartisan bill that would update regulation of harmful chemicals for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Regulation of chemicals took on new urgency after a crippling spill in West Virginia last year contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people. The chemical, crude MCHM, is one of thousands unregulated under current law.
Rep. Paul Tonko of New York, senior Democrat on the environment and economy subcommittee, called the bill a significant improvement over current law.
"The public has too little information about the safety of chemicals they are exposed to every day in virtually every product they use," Tonko said. "Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of harm to people's health, EPA is unable to regulate exposure to toxic chemicals" such as BPA, formaldehyde, styrene and other hazardous substances. Current law is so weak that it even prevented EPA from completely banning deadly asbestos, Tonko and other supporters said.
But Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the bill has an untested and ambiguous safety standard and fails to require tough deadlines for final agency action. Promised reviews of dangerous chemicals could languish if Congress does not approve adequate funds for the program, he said.
"Congress has neglected the problem of dangerous chemicals in consumer products for decades, to the great benefit of chemical industry profits," Cook said. "American families should not have to wait more decades for a regulatory system that aggressively protects their health from toxic chemicals."