Other Pesticides & Herbicides

At a Glance

Pesticides and herbicides are used to control insects and unwanted plants in agricultural fields. The chemicals in pesticides and herbicides can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin by those who work or live in close vicinity to the fields, and may also be consumed if residues remain on produce.

What are chlordane, malathion, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-TP?

Chlordane is a pesticide, and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxy propionic acid (2,4,5-TP) is an herbicide. They are classified as probable human carcinogens by the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Though both were banned in the 1980s, they persist in the environment and can linger in fat tissue for long periods of time.[1],[2]

2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is an herbicide that is still used today. It is an endocrine disruptor that has the ability to mimic estrogen. High levels of estrogen are linked to breast cancer. IARC classifies 2,4-D as a possible human carcinogen.[3]

Malathion is a pesticide that is widely used around the world.[4]

Where are chlordane, malathion, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-TP found?

These pesticides and herbicides are found in agricultural fields. They can also be present in produce and certain meats and fish.[5]

What evidence links chlordane, malathion, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-TP to breast cancer?

Pesticides are occupational hazards for farmers and their families.

  • One study found that the combined chemicals in pesticides caused an increased incidence of breast cancer in younger Hispanic farm workers. The chemicals that workers were exposed to included 2,4-D, malathion, and chlordane.[6]
  • Another study found that wives of agricultural workers who used 2,4,5-TP and lived close to agricultural sites had a slightly elevated risk for breast cancer.[7]

The city of Arica, Chile, was repeatedly sprayed with malathion during the 1980s. Thirty years later, researchers found that women in this city were 11 times more likely to experience breast cancer than women in the general Chilean population. Their cancer was also more likely to metastasize.[8]

A study on U.S. women with breast cancer found an association between breast cancer mortality and concentration of pesticide chemical mixtures in their blood.[9]

Who is most likely to be exposed to chlordane, malathion, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-TP?

Farmers and others who work in, or reside near, agricultural fields are most likely to be exposed to harmful chemicals used in pesticides and herbicides.[10]

Who is most vulnerable to the health effects of is chlordane, malathion, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-TP?

In a study of women living on Long Island, those who were diagnosed with breast cancer and had high levels of organochlorine compounds (DDT, DDE, chlordane, and other pesticides) in their blood at the time of diagnosis had higher mortality rates five and 15 years later.[11] Exposure to mixtures of pesticide chemicals might be more toxic than exposure to individual chemicals.[12]

Children are also particularly vulnerable, because they are still developing.[13]

What are the top tips to avoid exposure chlordane, malathion, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-TP?

  • Wear fitted protective clothing including long sleeves, pants, boots, gloves and masks when exposed to pesticides containing toxic chemicals. Clothing made of synthetic material is more resistant to penetration by pesticides.[14],[15]
  • Wash produce well before eating. Where possible, buy USDA certified organic produce, which has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides.

[1] Environmental Protection Agency. (2000). Chlordane. https://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/hlthef/chlordan.html. Accessed July 25, 2016.

[2] Environmental Protection Agency. 2,4,5-TP (Silvex). https://safewater.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/sections/202346537. Accessed July 25, 2016.

[3] Engel, L. S., Hill, D. A., Hoppin, J. A., Lubin, J. H., Lynch, C. F., Pierce, J., … & Alavanja, M. C. (2005). Pesticide use and breast cancer risk among farmers’ wives in the agricultural health study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 161(2), 121-135.

[4] Cabello, G., Valenzuela-Estrada, M., Siques, P., Brito, J., Parra, E., Valdiva, U.  … & Ortega, A. (2013). Relation of Breast Cancer and Malathion Aerial Spraying in Arica, Chile. International Journal of Morphology, 31(2), 640-645.

[5] Toxicology Data Network. (2010). 2,4,5-TP Human Health Effects. https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+686. Accessed July 25, 2016.

[6] Mills, P. K., & Yang, R. (2005). Breast cancer risk in Hispanic agricultural workers in California. International journal of occupational and environmental health, 11(2), 123-131.

[7] Engel, L. S., Hill, D. A., Hoppin, J. A., Lubin, J. H., Lynch, C. F., Pierce, J., … & Alavanja, M. C. (2005). Pesticide use and breast cancer risk among farmers’ wives in the agricultural health study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 161(2), 121-135.

[8] Cabello, G., Valenzuela-Estrada, M., Siques, P., Brito, J., Parra, E., Valdiva, U.  … & Ortega, A. (2013). Relation of Breast Cancer and Malathion Aerial Spraying in Arica, Chile. International Journal of Morphology, 31(2), 640-645.

[9] Parada, H., Wolff, M. S., Engel, L. S., White, A. J., Eng, S. M., Cleveland, R. J., … & Gammon, M. D. (2016). Organochlorine insecticides DDT and chlordane in relation to survival following breast cancer. International Journal of Cancer, 138(3), 565-575.

[10] Environmental Protection Agency. (2000). Chlordane. https://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/hlthef/chlordan.html Accessed July 25, 2016.

[11] Parada, H., Wolff, M. S., Engel, L. S., White, A. J., Eng, S. M., Cleveland, R. J., … & Gammon, M. D. (2016). Organochlorine insecticides DDT and chlordane in relation to survival following breast cancer. International Journal of Cancer, 138(3), 565-575.

[12] Boada, L. D., Zumbado, M., Henríquez-Hernández, L. A., Almeida-González, M., Álvarez-León, E. E., Serra-Majem, L., & Luzardo, O. P. (2012). Complex organochlorine pesticide mixtures as determinant factor for breast cancer risk: a population-based case-control study in the Canary Islands (Spain). Environmental Health11(1), 1.

[13] Alexander BH, Mandel JS, Baker BA, Burns CJ, Bartels MJ, Acquavella JF, Gustin C. Biomonitoring of 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid exposure and dose in farm families. Environmental health perspectives. 2007 Mar 1:370-6.

[14] Damalas, C. A., & Koutroubas, S. D. (2016). Farmers’ Exposure to Pesticides: Toxicity Types and Ways of Prevention. Toxics, 4(1), 1.

[15] Alexander BH, Mandel JS, Baker BA, Burns CJ, Bartels MJ, Acquavella JF, Gustin C. Biomonitoring of 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid exposure and dose in farm families. Environmental health perspectives. 2007 Mar 1:370-6.

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