One of the cheapest and most popular herbicides on the market today may be particularly harmful to, well, humans, mammals, fish, birds, bees, and the environment as a whole. With variant product names, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is among the top three most used pesticides in the United States and its use is expected to increase between 100-600% by this year. It is most commonly used on commercial farms for crops like corn, wheat, soybean, and cotton. It is also commonly used on green spaces like parks, sports fields, and even your neighbor’s backyard. While it has been around since the 1940’s, its use is increasingly being challenged by environmental advocacy groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and for a good reason.
There are several risks correlated to 2,4-D, either through direct contact or indirect exposure. If not applied properly, this chemical is prone to drift and runoff thereby permeating into groundwater, surface water, and drinking water. Drift and runoff is likely to occur with wind speeds higher than 15mph, when rain occurs within 24 hours of application, and during low-level temperature inversions. Besides contaminated water, traces that are brought into your home from shoes or pets can persist for years because 2,4-D only breaks down through direct sun contact.
Repeated exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to possibly cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma and sarcoma, hormone disorders in men and women, birth defects and neurological disorders in children, infertility and decreased sperm count. In agricultural workers, immediate symptoms after breathing in 2,4-D for prolonged periods while applying the chemical, include skin and eye irritation, coughing, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, nausea, and temporary loss of muscle coordination.
Apart from risks to humans, it may also negatively impact small farms and the environment more broadly. It may be similarly toxic to small mammals, fish, birds and bees. Dogs in particular may be at risk for canine malignant lymphoma after exposure. The possible harm to birds and bees may result in loss of pollinators and biodiversity. When used in industrial contexts, its damage disproportionately impacts small farms that are less likely to use GMO seeds that are resistant to 2,4-D destruction. It has also been observed to soil-leach, resulting in apparent nutrient loss, perpetuating the need for fertilizers, and risking crop failure among small farms and industrial farms alike.One of the most shocking parts of the 2,4-D story is that there is actually an effective alternative treatment called Fiesta turf weed killer that is safe to apply and safe for the environment! Both broadcast and spot treatments are possible with this treatment and the weed control results are visible within hours of application. It is also effective in cooler temperatures, down to 45 °F. Fiesta works through absorption into leaf tissues and is transported into the plant root. Its iron chelate based chemistry is compatible with most spray equipment, and has a long shelf life of up to five years. Most importantly, this selective herbicide has no residual odor and re-entry in a treated area is safe for both humans and pets after the spray is dry. So whether you are most concerned with your health, the environment, or just the weeds in your backyard, this is a safe weed control alternative you’ll want to check out.