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Group sues EPA over popular weed killer
February 23rd, 2012
02:26 PM ET

Group sues EPA over popular weed killer

The Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit Thursday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over 2,4-D, a widely used ingredient in broad leaf weed killers.

The NRDC went to court with the agency over its alleged failure to respond to a petition calling for the EPA to stop licensing the use of 2,4-D, which was one of two ingredients in the toxic Vietnam war herbicide Agent Orange.

"It's really time to connect the dots with this chemical and be much more cautious about its use," said Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at NRDC. "Right now it's used in widespread fashion on people's lawns, back yards, playgrounds, ball fields and soccer fields, where kids are getting it on their skin. That's a particular problem."

The EPA does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman Dale Kemery said.

Some 46 million pounds of 2,4-D are used in the United States every year, with about 11.5 million pounds used in lawn care as part of more than two dozen brands of weed killers or “weed and feed” products, EPA figures show.

Exposure to 2,4-D can cause damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys, according to the EPA’s website. EPA classifies 2,4-D as a hazardous air pollutant.

Children are particularly susceptible to 2,4-D exposure if they breathe indoor air or dust, following a lawn application. The chemical can be tracked into the home on the shoes of the person applying the herbicide.

Recreational swimmers also can be exposed where the herbicide has been used to control aquatic weeds.

Solomon says consumers should look at the labels of the herbicides they use and avoid products containing 2,4-D, which may also be listed as diethanolamine salt and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid.

In addition to lawns, 2,4-D is also used in pastures and rangeland, and on farms growing wheat, corn, soybeans, sugarcane and other crops.

EPA does not classify 2,4-D as a carcinogen, but studies have linked the chemical to higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among farm workers using the weed killer.

NRDC filed a petition in 2008 asking the EPA to stop allowing companies to use the chemical. Thursday’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia:

“Given the continuing harms associated with widespread exposure to this dangerous chemical and EPA’s unreasonable delay, NRDC seeks this court’s intervention – on behalf of its affected members – to compel EPA to act within 45 days of the court’s decision.”


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