Is the dreaded dandelion a bigger threat than 2,4-D?

I was really excited to visit family in Red Deer recently. I grabbed a paper to see what’s going on around town. Then I noticed a story about how drastic action was going to be taken to eliminate a serious problem.

I was really excited to visit family in Red Deer recently. I grabbed a paper to see what’s going on around town. Then I noticed a story about how drastic action was going to be taken to eliminate a serious problem.

I read, in horror, how a known carcinogen was going to be sprayed everywhere to get rid of a little yellow flower that was going to be gone in a month anyway.

I did a little of my own research, because something was amiss.

I learned that 2,4-D is a moderately persistent chemical with a half-life between 20 and 200 days.

Unfortunately, the herbicide doesn’t just affect target weeds. It has been shown to cause low growth rates, reproductive problems, changes in appearance or behaviour, and even death in non-target species.

The use of 2,4-D has had drastic affects on both agricultural and wildlife animals. There have been recorded deaths of cattle and horses that grazed on treated plants, as well as the destruction of food sources for moose and other creatures.

Environmental contamination, particularly in wetlands, has been demonstrated.

Research has proven that 2,4-D causes cancer (Littorin, 1994). The pesticide damages immune, reproductive and nervous systems. It disrupts energy production (Zychlinkski & Zolnierowicz, 1990), causes birth defects (Garry et al, 1996), delays in brain development and abnormal behavior patterns (Evangelista de Duffard et al, 1995), etc., etc.

Recent research has revealed that 2,4-D is excreted in breast milk as long as a week after exposure/consumption to impede infant brain development (Sturtz et al, 2000).

This stuff is being sprayed all over Red Deer to kill those dastardly dandelions whose leaves contain more vitamin C by weight than oranges, as well as loads of vitamin A, etc.

You can make wine, salads, even a coffee substitute with these terrifying bright yellow flowered plants. Dratted dandelions feed honey bees, which supply us with honey … but never fear, the 2,4D will make sure they won’t be making honey any time soon, at least in Red Deer.

The spraying is probably good for local business, like hospitals. There was a decline of cancers in Sweden after the banning of phenoxy herbicides (Hardell and Eriksson, 2003).

Legal costs might go up, though. Workers who apply chlorinated phenoxy herbicides often end up with nervous system disorders, skin cancer, and hormonal and internal organ irregularities.

It was good to see family, but I have more reason to worry about them, now.

Chris Burton

Barrie, Ont.

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