NRDC Lawsuit Seeks to Ban Agent Orange Ingredient from Weed and Feed Products

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jackie Wei, 212-727-4569, jwei@nrdc.org

NRDC Lawsuit Seeks to Ban Agent Orange Ingredient from Weed and Feed Products

Popular Use of Toxin 2,4-D in Pesticides Poised to Skyrocket without Action

WASHINGTON - 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.”

For more information about 2,4-D and the serious human health impacts, please see NRDC’s fact sheet and Gina Solomon’s blog.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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