Toxic Weedkiller Chemicals Detected in Nearly 40% of People Tested in U.S. Study
A new study has found detectable levels of toxic weedkillers in about 40% of respondents in a U.S. nationwide survey. The survey found levels of 2,4-D, an herbicide that has been linked to cancer, in one in three people.
Researchers at George Washington University analyzed the 2001 to 2014 results from the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 14,395 people across the U.S. ages 6 and older. In 2001 to 2002, they found evidence of about 17% human exposure. For 2011 to 2012, human exposure increased to 39.6%, the highest level of human exposure recorded for this herbicide.
“Further study must determine how rising exposure to 2,4-D affects human health – especially when exposure occurs early in life,” Melissa Perry, senior author of the paper, told The Guardian. “Children and other vulnerable groups are also increasingly exposed to other pesticides and these chemicals may act synergistically to produce health problems.”
The 2,4-D herbicide was first created in the 1940s and was popular until Roundup, or glyphosate, became the norm. Despite health and environmental concerns, use of 2,4-D has increased again.
From 2012 to 2020, use of 2,4-D has increased nearly 70%, and this is expected to continue rising, especially with the approval to use Enlist Duo. Enlist Duo is an approved chemical for genetically modified crops that contains both 2,4-D and glyphosate.
According to The Guardian, about 600 products used in industrial agriculture contain 2,4-D, which is easily absorbed through the skin or ingested in the mouth and nose. High levels of exposure to 2,4-D have been linked to various cancers, leukemia in children, birth defects, and reproductive issues. While it’s not entirely known how much damage lower levels can do, exposure can disrupt the endocrine system.
“Agricultural use of 2,4-D has increased substantially from a low point in 2002 and it is predicted to increase further in the coming decade,” the study says. “Because increasing use is likely to increase population level exposures, the associations seen here between 2,4-D crop application and biomonitoring levels require focused biomonitoring and epidemiological evaluation to determine the extent to which rising use and exposures cause adverse health outcomes among vulnerable populations (particularly children and women of childbearing age) and highly exposed individuals (farmers, other herbicide applicators, and their families).”