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Worldwide weed killer is “possibly carcinogenic”

After being used for more than 70 years, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified one of the world’s most widely used weed killers as “possibly carcinogenic”.

Cancer researches at the World Health Organisation (WHO)said that the results of the studies were not conclusive.


The weedkiller is called 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid but is more commonly known as 2,4-D. IT is used widely in the management of agricultural crops, forestry, grass and bodies of water to prevent the growth of weeds. 2,4-D has been in use since the 1940s and is an active ingredient in more than 1,500 products.

2,4-D was used in the production of Agent Orange, a chemical weapon used by the US military in the Vietnam War.

The chemical is used by Dow AgroSciences who claim the classification was “inconsistent with government findings in nearly 100 countries” that see 2,4-D as a safe product.

The European Food Safety Authority, in a report earlier this year, found that 2,4-D posing a carcinogenic threat is “unlikely”.

However, the IARC said that studies offered “strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress … and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression.”

Despite lobbying from several environmental and consumer groups, the chemical remains in common among agricultural and chemical groups.

Pesticide Action Network UK  said that there were “concerns about long term adverse effects of 2,4-D on human health and water pollution”.

WHO’s findings follow the IARC’s classification three months previously that a separate weedkiller – glyphosate – as “probably” carcinogenic.

The IARC’s classifications can influence regulators but carry no legal weight.

By Hal Breen

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About Hal Breen

Student at the University of Bristol Writer for Union Times, Inter:Mission and The Tab

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