skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Gina Solomon’s Blog

Harmful Herbicide: EPA's Unreasonable Delay Protecting People from 2,4-D

Gina Solomon

Posted February 23, 2012

, , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

This weekend, I walked the aisles of a large home supply store near my home. Sure enough, on the shelves were an array of weed killers and "weed and feed" products marketed to keep your lawn looking great. My little lawn doesn't look so great. That's partly because my two dogs love it so much - their playful digging, and the brown patches where they pee, have marred the perfection of the grass. But I wasn't there to shop for lawn care products; instead, I was hunting for a pesticide known as 2,4-D.

I found it - in five different products. You can see the photos below.

2,4-D was invented in the chemical boom during World War II, making it one of the oldest pesticides that's still legally on the market today. It was one of the two active ingredients in Agent Orange, the notorious Vietnam War defoliant. Despite decades of scientific studies showing links to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans (and Canine Malignant Lymphoma in household dogs), this chemical survives and thrives as one of the top three pesticides sold in the United States today. Newer science shows that it's not just a cancer problem, but that this pesticide interferes with several essential hormones, thereby increasing the risks of birth defects and neurologic damage in children. Studies in Midwest wheat-growing areas (where 2,4-D is heavily used) have shown increased rates of certain birth defects, especially in male children, and lower sperm counts in adults.

Many people don't realize that many 'weed and feed' products contain a toxic pesticide. People also don't realize that after they apply the product to their lawn, the chemical residues are tracked indoors on shoes or pet paws, and contaminate the carpets. Because 2,4-D is broken down by direct sunlight, once the residues get into the house the pesticide lingers for months or even years. Kids who play on the floor are at particular risk, since they accidentally ingest the chemical when they put their hands in their mouths.

2,4-D is used on athletic fields, golf courses, landscaping, timber land, rights-of-way, and various crops. The airborne chemical can even travel significant distances, damaging plants downwind, and contaminating homes. This problem is poised to get worse -- Dow Agrosciences has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve genetically modified corn that would allow farmers to spray the entire crop with large amounts of 2,4-D (without harming the corn); some experts estimate that this will increase 2,4-D use by 50 fold, and farmers of other crops are very worried that this overuse will harm their crops and their families.

For all of these reasons, NRDC petitioned the EPA in 2008 to cancel registrations for 2,4-D. Nearly four years have passed, and the EPA still hasn't responded, so today NRDC is filing a lawsuit against the Agency for its unreasonable delay on this important issue. We will also be turning to our supporters in the coming weeks for ongoing help in this fight.

Meanwhile, here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your family:

1) Avoid using any weed control products that contain 2,4-D, including 'weed and feed' products with this chemical. Check the labels, and look for words like "2,4,-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid", or "diethanolamine salt of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid".

2) Keep your carpets uncontaminated by having a 'shoes off' policy in your home, and vacuuming the carpets at least weekly with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. If you have a toddler, wash their hands frequently; if you have a dog, wipe their paws when they have been playing in an area that might have been treated with chemicals.

3) Check with your child's school and with your town, to make sure 2,4-D isn't used on local athletic fields, playgrounds, and parks.

Learn more about 2,4-D on NRDC's website here.

2,4-D product labels 001.jpg2,4-D product labels 002.jpg2,4-D product labels 003.jpg2,4-D product labels 004.jpg2,4-D product labels 005.jpg2,4-D product labels 006.jpg

Share | | |


sharon golganFeb 24 2012 12:45 AM

The EPA has covered the industry's ass on the dioxin issue for 40 years. They have known the results of dioxin exposure because they have done numerous studies that show the health effects of 2,4,D and 2,4,5,T (Agent Orange). Clinton made a promise to those of us in Jacksonville Arkansas that he would see to it the dioxin reassessment would be finalized during his presidency but when it came down to the wire he buried it the same way he buried the incineration of the waste from the production of agent orange right in the middle of Jacksonville, across the street from our hospital, a day care center and elementary school. He lied to the citizens when he was governor and he lied to use when he was president. Now 25 years later the EPA is still turning their heads on all of us who were exposed to the Hercules, Vertac plant that produced more that 1/2 of the agent orange that was sprayed in Vietnam. The kids in Jacksonville have grown up with 3 generations that were exposed to the production of it right in the middle of their town. The town should have been bought our like Love Canal, or Times Beach but the Chamber of Commerce working with the EPA, the Real Estate moguls and our Governor Clinton were able to pretend there were no problems. Mayor of Jacksonville Swaim said he would not be afraid to sprinkle dioxin on his kids breakfast cereal. They are all a bunch of [edited; please no profanity — Switchboard editor] and liars. Don't believe anything your government tells you about how safe these chemicals are. They are deadly and cause many, many. health effects from cancer to babies being borne in Jacksonville with both male and female sex organs, (a condition that new parents wont talk about but happens frequently in Jacksonville.And the only thing they are good for is making the industry rich.

LeeFeb 24 2012 06:19 PM

I hear you and sympathize with you about your concerns over what happened to the city you lived in .. but I think its clouded what you think about chemicals in general. 2,4-D in particular is only around as long as it has been .. because it IS a good product .. and it IS safe. The dioxin that was found at low levels in "Agent Orange" was because of the 2,4,5-T in it .. not 2,4-D. I wish people would quit using OLD incorrect information when they talk about 2,4-D.

Please stay concerned about what effects your life .. but do make sure you get up to the date information about the issues you get excited about. Just because NRDC or the Government says something .. don't always believe it at face value .. test it out .. research it .. but I think you'll find that there may be some errors in information on both sides of the line.

Just my 2 cents worth!

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Stay Plugged In