Chemical Herbicides – Are they For You? (Part Two)

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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When I started this study on chemical herbicides – especially 2, 4D Amine 2, and blog my layman’s report I should clarify that I am not trying to paint chemical companies as the evil empire.  This industry provides  many of the essential lifestyle benefits we currently enjoy.   I’m well acquainted with the virtues and utility of  this industry and we all rely on them to one extent or another.  What I hope to point out is that some chemicals should only be handled by professionals and that the average homesteader should not be able to buy a toxic product as freely as we do.  Lets face it, no one even takes the time to read the multiple page ultra fine print booklet put on the product so they are not used  properly in most cases. 

That being said, the question remains what is 2,4-D Amine 4, or any other 2,4-D product for that matter.  It is most widely used as a world wide broad leaf herbicide and has been in use for over 50 years.  2,4-D comes as either a salt, amine, or ester.  Each has slightly different properties but the results are equal as it kills the target plant by causing rapid cell division and abnormal growth.  The major  problem with this product is that many independent scientific studies have produced different results.  Some say no long term effect has been demonstrated in animals or humans.  Others reports  say something quite differently.  Therefore this chemical compound has been the focus of controversy for as many years as it has been in existence. 2,4-D made up about 50% of Agent Orange widely used in Viet Nam.

The report furnished to me by the EPA reflects that there are suggestions that it may be linked to certain cancers, or that it may or may not have long term effects.  I would personally think that any chemical that had been widely used and studied for over 50 years would be more definitive.  The Material Safety Data Sheet uses terms like – limited evidence for carcinogenicity in humans.  Eye irritation in rabbits is corrosive and causes irreversible eye damage.  Its target organs are the skin, central nervous system, liver and kidneys.  It is toxic to aquatic invertebrates.  In my opinion I would hope that in  half a century its full toxic properties would be more widely understood and not speculated, suggested, implied or contradicted.

It can be inhaled, absorbed via the skin, or ingested.  It has a half life from 7-14 days depending on which report you may read.  I read one report that once tracked inside onto carpet that it has a half life of up to one year.  Babies, pets and humans all use a carpeted floor not knowing it contains toxic properties.  It clearly breaks down and degrades outside much faster than inside.  Remember that children according to the EPA have up to 10 times more susceptibility to chemicals than adults and even adults have different levels of susceptibility.

I believe the alarming factor to me is that each report I read had different conclusions and findings.  They omit common sense questions or concerns and seem to do end runs on this product with a wide variety of conclusions which are mostly inconsistent.  It doesn’t seem to matter which side of this product you may come down on, neither side seems willing to accept the others findings.  After reading so many reports with so many different alleged findings it is very confusing.  Some reports say pets are not effected, and others say four exposures a year will kill a dog. Some say if you have sun screen on the absorption rate is 50% greater. Okay, which is it?  Are we spraying weeds and killing our pets and ourselves at the same time or not?  Are we protecting ourselves from skin cancer and accelerating the absorbing of 2,4-D?  It is very hard to report on this chemical when the reports conflict and confound results.

The final part I plan to blog on will be the cooperative studies done by major institutions and the resulting  toxic effects and hazards associated with this product.. This report, since it was done at various universities probably comes closer to a unified truth than others I have read.