Agent Orange, or 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid), used as a defoliant during the Vietnam War, is nasty. It is linked to cancer, cell damage, severe hormonal disruption, reproductive problems and birth defects. Invented during World War Two, 2,4-D is one of the oldest legally available pesticides on the market. Unfortunately, 46 million pounds of it are still used every year in the U.S. It is in weed-and-feed products, plus used for agricultural purposes. 2,4-D is detected in drinking water and as a contaminant in surface water and groundwater. It is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a hazardous air pollutant and by the state of California as a toxic air contaminant.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in federal court against the EPA on February 23 for failing to respond to a 2008 petition to cancel all registrations of 2,4-D. In other words, to ban all uses of 2,4-D. There is an urgency for the EPA to respond favorably to the petition. Dow Agrosciences petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for 2,4-D resistant genetically engineered crops to be deregulated. As the NRDC states in a press release, “This will put thousands more Americans at unnecessary risk.”
I am reminded of the lyrics to an Anti-Flag (a political punk band) song: “Radiation, Agent Orange tested on us souls, guinea pigs for western corporations.” Yes, the American people have become one big experiment so corporations like Dow can make big bucks.
I am sure by now that you want to do something. There are several things you can do to both protect yourself from exposure, and let your voice be heard. 2,4-D lingers in soil for over a month after being applied. Our pets and our shoes can track it in, which means babies and toddlers who crawl on carpets are particularly vulnerable to indoor exposure. An NRDC blog post lists what we can do to help protect ourselves from exposure to 2,4-D:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
Here is what you can do to let your opinion about 2,4-D be known. The USDA is accepting public comments through April. Let your voice be heard by signing the Care2 petition, Demand USDA NOT Approve Dow’s 2,4-D Resistant GE Corn.
Photo credits: Flickr user, yellowkatfauna