2,4-D is one of the most widely used herbicides and is applied to agricultural crops, grasslands used for cattle grazing, and along roadsides and railways. It is also in home and garden herbicides. 

How am I exposed?

  • Breathing in air contaminated with the chemical 
  • Direct contact with 2,4-D during manufacturing or application
  • Direct contact with contaminated plants and certain crops that are sprayed like wheat, rice, and corn.
  • Drinking water or eating food contaminated with 2,4-D.

Why should I be concerned?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified 2,4-D as a moderately hazardous pesticide and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has termed it a possible human carcinogen.

Exposure to high levels of 2,4-D can damage the nervous system in humans, and in some instances, can cause death.  Long-term exposure to high levels of 2,4-D can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys, liver, and blood in humans.

Human exposure to lower levels of 2,4-D can cause severe eye and skin irritation and gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Some studies have linked 2,4-D with an increased risk of birth defects and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Crop workers and pesticide applicators, particularly those who are pregnant, are at greatest risk.

What can government and business do?

  • EPA should take action to phase out 2,4-D and other pesticides that can cause cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and learning disabilities.
  • State legislatures can eliminate their own use of toxic pesticides on public property, and educate residents about using safer pest management methods in the home and garden.
  • Businesses can use integrated pest management (IPM) and organic farming, gardening and residential pest control. IPM relies on using multiple non-chemical and chemical means to prevent and eliminate weeds.

How can I reduce my exposure?

  • Buy USDA certified organic produce. If you are on a limited budget, look for organic choices for the produce that you eat the most of. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
  • If organic isn’t an option, make sure to thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Learn more about your water. Your local water supplier can give you a list of the chemicals they test for in your water, as well as how your water is treated. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is also a source for information.
Additional Resources

EPA Fact Sheet on 2,4 D

Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow

c/o Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund
88 Broad Street, Lower Level
Boston, MA 02110



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