Chemical Herbicides - Are they For You?

| 11/30/2011 11:53:28 AM

Tags: How chemicals are tested for safety, Should you use chemical pesticides/herbicides around your homestead?, Bruce McElmurray,

When writing about something like 2,4-D Amine 4 or other chemical pesticides, I believe it is only proper to state right up front that I am not a scientist, toxicologist, nor do I represent any entity.  I am just an average person who has taken the time to research this product and base my comments on information which has been furnished to me by the EPA, USDA and those who have studied this product in depth.  Therefore if you happen to be a scientist or toxicologist please address the document text  provided by our government; as I am not qualified to debate the subject.   

My first concern was just  how accurate is the testing process prior to the release of chemicals by the EPA.   I started my study by going to a publication from the EPA itself. Simply stated the report deals with the reliability of the scientific tests on many chemicals.  The EPA requires a certain minimum set of studies for different kinds of toxicity before the chemical is registered.  The EPA includes certain standards that are required from the chemical producer, but the EPA does not necessarily run its own tests and relies on the manufacturer to do these tests.  They also lack some important considerations in my opinion. Most tests are carried out on rats, mice, rabbits, dogs and other animals.  Humans are not necessarily similar to rats and other laboratory animals. Therefore the EPA sometimes requires testing on two different species  to determine acceptable standards for humans. This level of testing assumes that all warm blooded species are alike. The EPA also generally concludes that children are approximately 10 times more susceptible to chemicals than adult humans. A variable standard at best.    

Lab rats  have the ability to pass some toxins through their system without harm, but other warm blooded species do not have that ability.  So when 2, 4-D Amine 4 is considered moderately toxic to rats it could be seriously toxic to other species.  Then to compound this even further certain humans are more susceptible to toxic chemicals than other humans.  The range of human susceptibility is not actually known so this factor may not be sufficiently protective.   

Another consideration is that the test animal is only exposed to a single chemical.  In the environment the human is exposed to multiple toxins simultaneously which can lead to cumulative effects. Also not all types of toxicity are studied in detail.  The increase in the last 30+ years with diseases linked to chemical exposure are growing.  Such as ADD, ADHD, asthma, early onset of menstruation, chemical sensitivity,  immune issues, reproduction, and systemic dysfunction to name a few.  The EPA relies on the chemical industry to do the testing and the criteria it demands leaves potential risk assessment nebulous, incomplete or uncertain.   

The process of which chemicals actually get tested for toxicity such as carcinogens and reproductive toxins can be either scientific or political which is why not all chemicals receive extensive scrutiny or any scrutiny at all.  Chemicals can also be approved for use before being registered and the toxic effects may not be fully known for 20 years or longer.  The EPA attempts to compensate for many of these factors by adding an 'uncertainty factor,' to establish what is acceptable. To me the entire testing process appears to

be like shooting an arrow into the side of the barn and then painting a bulls eye around it.   

bruce mcelmurray
12/2/2011 5:32:11 PM

Good for you starting a garden... I couldn't agree more with your comment. The EPA does have scientists looking at the results of those tests and unless they are fabricated they are reading the same findings. Take the politics out of the equation and you would probably have more realistic findings. I also think the EPA should give equal consideration to independent studies and reconcile any differences. Good luck with your garden. I have posted several garden comments on our personal blog site which is: Maybe you will find something to help there but most of what I have learned on gardens is on MEN...

bruce mcelmurray
12/2/2011 5:24:08 PM

You are absolutely right on the asthma. I have had it as far back as I can remember. What Carol failed to mention on driving through the drift of 2 4-D Amine 4, is that not only did I have an immediate attack but I didn't have sun glasses on and my eyes burned so bad that tears were running down my cheeks and I could barely see. I went home and washed my eyes out and stopped the asthma attack with my rescue inhaler. That stuff is terrible for your eyes, and my eyes still water more than usual. I have changed my prescription glasses but that could be due to age too. The impact of this was sudden and terrible. That is why I checked into what it was initially and the more I read the more I became concerned and subsequently confused. I agree to the point that the EPA is doing an adequate job but when it comes to approving and certifying chemicals I think the politics should be taken out of the process. That is just my personal opinion and I know that chemical companies donate to politicians campaigns but politics should not get involved in that part of the process. All it takes is a phone call from a politician and who knows where the process goes. Politicians can be pretty persuasive. Just wanted to clarify the asthma though.

t brandt
12/2/2011 11:51:36 AM

A few eclectic thoughts: when evaluating risks, remember that 35,000 Americans die on our highways each year. How many die from 2,4-D poisoning? Asthma is an excessively strong reaction of the airways to physical insult: cold air, fast moving air, and particulates in the air can all bring it on, but only in a suceptible person. If Bruce had an attack after driving thru a cloud of chemical, it was the particulate nature of that cloud, not the traits of the chemical itself that brought on the attack. This is a well thought out article mentioning some of the pitfalls & difficulties of testing for toxicity. It's not an easy job, but given the very low, apparent rate of illness caused by our food supply, they must be doing a good enough job. Grow your own, then you don't have to worry at all about it.

terri glass
12/2/2011 1:50:40 AM

I totally agree, letting the EPA depend on the testing from the companies who profit from the chemicals being considered "safe" is crazy. I have recently started reading more about our food supply and have become increasingly concerned. I have been trying to buy only organic but it is pretty expensive to do so. Planning to have a big garden in the spring.

carol mcelmurray
12/1/2011 11:05:39 PM

Adam, it is interesting that you talk about asthma. The reason Bruce ended up researching this chemical is because we drove through a "cloud" of it which triggered an asthma attack. It is a very dangerous product and people need to be aware of when and where it is being used....hopefully by a licensed professional company.

bruce mcelmurray
12/1/2011 1:20:16 PM

Adam: When I wrote this to share it turned out rather long so it will be a three part blog. I will probably post the second one tomorrow and the last one early next week. You are absolutely correct that the EPA has a daunting job. . The EPA did and is cleaning up a toxic spill where I like to gold prospect and they are doing a lot of good going around cleaning up other peoples/industries messes. Maybe their mission needs to be redefined. I believe the problems and tasks they deal with are just overwhelming to them and things like this slip between the cracks or get glossed over. Hope you like the next two postings on chemical herbicides. I'm hoping that if the EPA can't deal with it - informed people can redirect their lives better when it comes to using toxic materials.

adam swenson
12/1/2011 12:12:47 AM

The EPA has a very difficult task in my opinion. They are supposed to weigh the environment and health against the economy and business. Wow. How can you put a $ value on pristine water or air? How can you put a $ value on whether people get asthma? Health and the environment are priceless, so actually I believe their task is impossible. It is then a matter of whose toes they are willing to step on and who screams the loudest when their toes get stepped on... or perhaps it is easier to look the other way at times so that nobodies toes get stepped on....directly. I look forward to further blog posts.

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!