2,4-D and canine-cancer link debunked

Do you remember the hoopla a few years ago when a research report indicated a link between 2,4-D use in yards and cancer in dogs exposed to the treated areas? It was reported on television, in newspapers and on the radio. Now that researchers have taken another look at the original data, it seems that there was never really any link. This reminds me of the Alar scare that was later found to be erroneous.

Back in 1991, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) published a study that showed that owners of dogs with canine malignant lymphoma (CML) were twice a likely to treat their lawns with 2,4-D four times or more a year than owners of dogs who did not have cancer. The authors said that this suggests a dose response to 2,4-D-that is, dogs are more likely to develop cancer as the frequency of application increases.

Soon after the original paper was published, an independent scientific review panel raised concerns about the methodology and findingsof the study. The panel was concerned about the author's definition of "exposure" and how data was treated among other things. The original authors published a second study in 1995 in response to the panel's concerns. After re-evaluating the data, they found that the differences were no longer significant, but they held to their previous conclusion that the frequency of 2,4-D applications and cancer incidence are linked. They acknowledged that the original 1991 paper failed to prove that 2,4-D exposure caused cancer in dogs, but they nevertheless cautioned against 2,4-D use.

Last June, researchers at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine published results of their analysis of the NCI data. Their research showed no dose-response relationship and, in fact, no significant association at all between 2,4-D use and CML. What's puzzling about NCI's conclusions and the resulting fear the NCI report caused is the fact that animal feeding studies have failed to establish any link between 2,4-D and cancer. Why weren't these studies reported in the press when they jumped on the original NCI study conclusions? You and I know that a report that says the data is not significant and everything is OK does not make the news.

Reflecting on the continual, insidious attacks on pesticides, this issue focuses on pest control. If only we could get the proper perspective-the pest is the problem-life would be so much simpler.

Let's take a look at the top pests in your area. Are they grubs, brown patch and crabgrass; or mole crickets, nematodes and dollarweed? Your list will depend on what part of the country you live in. Find out what regional turf specialists say about "Turf's most (un)wanted pests" beginning on page 18.

Once you have established what your target pests are, you've got to decide on your control strategy and select products to get the job done. Manufacturers have introduced a slew of new products to meet your needs, and they have more in the pipeline. Learn what's new and what will soon be released in "New pest controls for the new millennium" on page 24.

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