The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting public comments on registration of 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a ubiquitous lawn and garden herbicide that is frequently mixed with fertilizer in a “weed & feed” product. Weed and feed formulations are especially problematic because they encourage repeated and far wider use of 2,4-D on lawns, presenting special risks to children and contaminating ground and surface water. Email the EPA by Monday, March 14, and urge them to protect children by canceling all registrations for 2,4-D by visiting our action center at: http://ga4.org/campaign/_weednfeed
Approximately 40 million pounds of 2,4-D is used each year in the U.S. on lawns, golf courses, ball fields and parks, as well as applied agriculturally to pasture land, wheat, corn, soybeans, barley, rice, oats and sugar cane. In a 2003 study of pesticides present in the bodies of U.S. residents, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that young children (6-11 years) had significantly higher levels of both 2,4-D and 2,4-dichlorophenol (a breakdown product of 2,4-D and triclosan) than adults and youth (12-19 years).
Epidemiological studies have linked 2,4-D to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) among farmers and studies in Canada and Sweden have also found a greater incidence of 2,4-D exposure among people diagnosed with NHL. A number of studies also link 2,4-D exposure to childhood cancers including leukemia, NHL, and brain cancers. In dogs, exposure to lawns treated with 2,4-D has been associated with greater incidence of bladder cancer.
The herbicide is said to have relatively low persistence in both soil and water. However 2,4-D has a high potential to leach from soil and contaminate surface and ground water, and has been detected in the groundwater in five states and Canada. In King County, Washington a 1996 study found the herbicide present in every stream sampled during spring storms. Yet the herbicide’s greatest persistence by far is indoors, away from direct sunlight. One study calculated that a single application to turf that was tracked indoors could be expected to linger in carpeting for up to one year.
Many studies enumerate the multiple pathways through which children are exposed to chemicals and pesticides present in household dust and on surface areas in the home. The hand to mouth behaviors of small children, their close proximity to the floor, and their handling of toys and contact with surfaces all result in greater exposures to pesticides present in the home. In a preliminary risk assessment of 2,4-D, EPA determined that toddlers’ risks from contact with treated lawns exceeded agency guidelines. However, the agency revised that assessment, without fully factoring in all exposures to children through food, water, and residential dust. EPA also has not determined 2,4-D to be a carcinogen, despite the existing body of science linking the herbicide to cancer.
Weed and feed formulations of 2,4-D encourage repeated applications over the entire lawn area, rather than selective application to areas where weeds are present. Typically, weeds exist in only a small fraction of a lawn. Moreover, there is evidence that a substantial number of consumers do not recognize weed and feed formulations as pesticides. Furthermore, not all people read and follow label instructions. One study recently determined that only 53% of households report reading and carefully following the label when using pesticides and fertilizers.
Given that excessive application of 2,4-D in weed and feed products presents significant human health and environmental risks, and special risks for children, cancellation of weed and feed registrations is the single most effective way EPA can reduce the risks for children, families, pets and the environment. EPA is accepting comments from the public until March 14, 2005.
To send an email to EPA visit the PANNA action center at: http://ga4.org/campaign/_weednfeed
For more information, see the Beyond Pesticides website and sample a letter to EPA for groups and individuals at http://www.beyondpesticides.org.
EPA Docket number is OPP-2004-0167.
Sources: Beyond Pesticides, Alert March 1, 2004, Chemical Watch Fact Sheet 2,4-D, and EPA comments on August 24, 2004, http://www.beyondpesticides.org.