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Weed and feed product (with 2,4-D)

The results of a recently published large study are depressing, but not surprising. The pesticide 2,4-D, which was originally used in Agent Orange, is still around decades later and found everywhere you look - including in us.

In the past decade there has been a tremendous increase in the amount of both agricultural and residential use of 2,4-D in the US. The herbicide (a type of pesticide) is used to kill unwanted vegetation, including weeds. In 2020 alone, 33.3 million pounds of 2,4-D were used for agricultural purposes in the US! This number is projected to rise more each year, especially because it's used on genetically modified crops.

The study (with 14,395 participants) found that in 2011-2012, 40% of persons had 2,4-D in their urine. This was a massive increase from the start of the study in 2001 (17.1%). It is expected to have increased since then. Other studies find that current levels of pesticide residues (including additional pesticides) are in over 90% of all Americans, including pregnant women.

Children (aged 6 to 11 years) had the highest 2,4-D concentrations, and below that women of childbearing age. Interestingly, one difference they found was that non-Hispanic white persons had higher levels of 2,4-D in the blood than black persons.

The researchers thought that this might be because so much is used on lawns and green spaces in white suburban areas (think of those "perfect manicured lawns"). High-income persons had higher levels (manicured lawns!) than lower income persons. Agricultural workers also had higher levels of 2,4-D.

Health effects from 2,4-D: They include an increase in the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pediatric leukemia, birth defects (e.g., hypospadias in boys), allergic wheeze, hypothyroidism, chloracne, abnormal sperm, reduced fertility, soft tissue sarcoma, and olfactory deficits. It is an endocrine disruptor.

How do we get exposed to 2,4-D? Food and water frequently have 2,4-D residues. It can be in dust, in the air (from drift when applied nearby), rain, and even on our pets (when they go on treated lawns). We can inhale it, ingest it (from food and water), and absorb it through our skin and eyes. It is in most household carpet dust samples (it gets tracked inside).

What to do? Some simple steps:

  1. Avoid using any pesticides, including weed and feed products on lawns! Lawns do NOT need pesticides to be healthy!
  2. Stay off pesticide treated lawns, especially in the first 3 days and before a rainfall.
  3. Take shoes off at the door to avoid tracking in 2,4-D (and other pesticides, heavy metals).
  4. Eat organic food, as much as possible. [2,4-D is not allowed to be used in organic farms.]
2,4-D product near refrigerated foods

2,4-D (2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) is commonly added to weed and feed products, and used by both ordinary consumers and lawn care services. Incredibly, big box stores such as Costco sell big bags of these 2,4-D products - even next to food! This makes consumers think it's safe. But it's not.

From Science Daily: One out of three people exposed to potentially harmful pesticide

One out of three people in a large survey showed signs of exposure to a pesticide called 2,4-D, according to a study published today by researchers at the George Washington University. This novel research found that human exposure to this chemical has been rising as agricultural use of the chemical has increased, a finding that raises worries about possible health implications.  ...continue reading "Commonly Used Pesticide Is Found In Many People"

Why are huge (42+ pound) bags of lawn chemicals being sold with foods in stores? Should stacked bags of pesticides ever be placed next to foods in stores? Is this legal? Why is this happening in warehouse stores that call themselves environmentally conscious and brag about carrying organic foods?

Apparently the store does not recognize that the stacked bags of lawn chemicals (pesticides) are dangerous, that the bags can tear and spill pesticides, or that they always give off an awful chemical odor that can be smelled many aisles away. (This means we are breathing in those chemicals)

Why is it OK to place foods and enormous bags of pesticides in the same shopping cart, perhaps with children next to and handling the bags? (Note: I have personally seen this!) The pesticides should be sold in a separate area (like in Home Depot or Lowe's) or perhaps only in garden center. These pesticide products all say "Keep out of reach of children", to "avoid skin contact", and to "avoid inhaling". They are dangerous and do not belong in food stores.

The following photos were taken by me over the course of several years (2012 to 2015) in two Costco stores in NJ. The bags of "Turf Builder Winterguard Plus Weed Control" contain both fertilizer and pesticides and are commonly known as "Weed and Feed". Pesticides that kill weeds are also known as herbicides, and here the 2 pesticides (the active ingredients) are 2,4-D and mecoprop-p.

The first pesticide (2,4-D) was one of the the two pesticides found in Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, and is linked to many serious health problems, including cancer in both people and dogs. (Note: scroll down for more information on these 2 pesticides).

Pesticides get into the body through the skin (dermal exposure) or eyes, through the mouth (ingesting it, including residues on foods), or through inhalation. Note that all odors represent an exposure to a chemical.

Pesticide products contain a number of ingredients – the “active ingredients” that targets the pest (weed or insect), and other ingredients that are just labeled "inert ingredients" or "other ingredients". Any one of them may produce a sickening odor. Odors also may be related to a breakdown product, a warning agent (a smelly substance added to make otherwise odorless products easier to detect), or a chemical added to the formula to hide a bad odor.

Currently, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are only required to list the active ingredients in a pesticide, leaving consumers and applicators unaware of the possible toxics present in the inert or "other" ingredients of pesticide products. Pesticide manufacturers argue they cannot release information on inert ingredients because they are trade secrets, and if released, their products could be duplicated. Quite often inert ingredients constitute over 95% of the pesticide product, and can be as toxic as the active ingredients. 

So.... what this means is that just by being able to smell the pesticide-fertilizers, we are being exposed to some chemicals through inhalation. And when this product is placed by foods, one doesn't smell food but instead inhales chemicals, perhaps the pesticides. These huge bags easily leak and spill (unlike small metal containers or cans). Leaking bags also result in shopping carts being contaminated with pesticides, as well as the store floor.

By placing the bags of pesticides next to foods, Costco is also sending the message to customers that the product is "safe", but that is incorrect. Pesticides that are dangerous (toxic) must be registered with the EPA. Harmless things don't have to be registered - toxic chemicals do.

And yes, a few years ago I contacted Costco management about this issue, but their response was to pooh-pooh my concerns, and that I must "be sensitive". And they continued as before. The following are some photos from 2012 to 2015 at 2 Costco warehouse stores.

Next to refrigerated foods

Contains 2,4-D and Mecoprop-p

Next to bakery goods

By the meat

2,4-D (or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid is a systemic herbicide (broadleaf weed-killer). It is linked to several cancers, especially non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma, and can have other serious health effects including endocrine disruption (disruption of hormones), thyroid effects, neurotoxicity (nervous system damage), and developmental and reproductive effects.

As the post of Oct.19, 2015 indicated, a person's exposure to 2,4-D can be measured in a person's urine. There is much still unknown about what constant low-level exposure to 2,4-D does to a fetus, developing child, or adult of any age.

Of big concern is that the use of 2,4-D is increasing in the USA because of the development of new genetically modified soybean and corn strains that are resistant to 2,4-D. Thus farmers are using increasingly large amounts of 2,4-D on these corn and soybean crops in an attempt to control weeds. And yes, this means consumers are eating more foods with 2,4-D residues. (Note: long-term effects unknown.)

Mecoprop-p is a chlorophenoxy herbicide that is used to control a variety of weeds. It is not as toxic as 2,4-D, but it also has various health effects.

Go to the excellent Beyond Pesticides site for more information about all sorts of pesticides, resources, up-to-date information on pesticide laws, and more.