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WHO Classifies the Herbicide 2,4-D a “Possible Carcinogen”

Ted Snider and Linda Woolven of The Natural Path Newsletter have posted a new blog about a concern many of us share, the potential harm in residential use herbicides. With all the research on how chemicals affect us, one wonders how there are still pesticides and herbicides in use in places where our children and animals frequent. With luck and pressure from agencies such as WHO, companies will make necessary changes. In the meantime, we use white vinegar on our patio stones, harmful to no one (or the cat!), and a few dandelions isn’t the end of the world. Please read on:

With all the criticism of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, it’s nice to see that glyphosate has recently found a friend. Unfortunately, the friend that glyphosate has been hanging around with, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic, has just been classified as “possibly carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization. . . .

2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4-D) is the key ingredient in the common herbicide Enlist Duo, which is manufatured by chemical giant Dow. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has just classified 2,4-D as a “possible carcinogen”. The IARC based its classification on the finding that there is “strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress . . . and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression.”

The classification of “possible carcinogen” positions 2,4-D two levels above “probably not carcinogenic” and only one level below “probably carcinogenic”, the enviable position held by 2,4-D’s good friend, glyphosate. But don’t worry, because they’re both in Enlist Duo: the other key ingreient of Dow’s herbicide is glyphosate!

The big concern here is that, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “when EPA approved Enlist Duo for use on GMO crops, the agency did not consider the effect the two harmful defolients may have on human health when mixed together”. This problem is common in the scientific research which likes to isolate single ingredients and understudies the effect on health of the whole soup of chemicals we are exposed to in the real world outside the laboratory. The potent effect of mixing the ingredients is highlighted in a recent report that found Monsanto’s Roundup to be 125 times more toxic than its active ingredient, the “probably carcinogenic”, glyphosate alone.

2,4-D likely fell short of “probably carcinogenic” because epidemiological studies have not discovered an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma or other cancers, though, according to EWG, it has been associated with a higher risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Whether or not 2,4-D is a probable carcinogen, the evidence is strong that it is bad for human health. IARC based its decision, in part, on the finding that the evidence is strong that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress referes to the free radical damage that is behind the aging process and many of the most common diseases in addition to cancer.

According to EWG, 2,4-D is associated with a higher risk, not only of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but also of Parkinson’s Disease and immune problems.

You can see the WHO Press Release Here:


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