Saturday, June 14, 2008

Agent Orange

Vietnam veterans and other veterans who have myeloma and who may have been exposed to the herbicide/defoliant Agent Orange are eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration and other agencies. There is no conclusive evidence that Agent Orange causes myeloma, but there is some evidence and it is acceptable to the Veterans Administration. If you are a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, then you may know the cause of your cancer.

But what about those of us who were not in the military and certainly were not knowingly exposed to Agent Orange. It is quite possible that we WERE exposed, not to Agent Orange but to other commonly-used commercial weed killers containing the same ingredients as Agent Orange. One of those, widely available in the USA and fairly typical, was Ortho Weed-B-Gon, which once contained two primary ingredients: 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D); and 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T).

The second ingredient, 2,4,5-T, was also marketed separately under the brand name Silvex. It contained a dioxin called TCDD, produced as an inevitable by-product of manufacture. TCDD is toxic to humans in the smallest qualtities, and was banned for use on agricultural crops in 1970, but remained in use for lawn weed control until 1985. TCDD can cause cancer 20 years or more after exposure.

The first ingredient, 2,4-D, is still widely in use in the USA, most European countries, and most of the rest of the world. Most government agencies have concluded that it is safe. However, a different dioxin called DCDD is present in 2,4-D, and some believe that DCDD may be as harmful to humans as TCDD. It is banned for use on lawns in a few countries including Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

Agent Orange was a mixture of approximately equal parts of 2,4,D and 2,4,5-T. Commercial lawn preparations of the 1950's, 60's and 70's typically included more 2,4,D than 2,4,5-T, but only a little 2,4,5-T could contain enough dioxin to be harmful.

Personally, I have used Weed-B-Gon nearly every year since the late 1950's. I have sprayed thousands of gallons of that stuff, some of it on dandilions and much of it to control poison ivy. Most recently, of course, Weed-B-Gon has not contained 2,4,5-T with its TCDD dioxin, but it always contains 2,4-D with DCDD. Was my myeloma caused by exposure to 2,4,5-T twenty, thirty, or even fifty years ago? Was it caused by 2,4-D more recently? We'll probably never know. But you may be sure I'll be wearing a very high-quality mask the next time I attack that poison ivy. No more bare-faced Don.

Breakfast with lots of antioxidants: Gluten-free oatmeal with organic flame raisins and dried cranberries, mango, organic strawberries, banana, blueberries, cashews, organic pomegranate juice, organic nonfat milk.


  1. Very interesting post, Don. Can't you give up those toxic weed killers? Is there no other way to get rid of poison ivy? I guess you can't just wear heavy-duty gloves and pull it up from the roots, eh? No, guess not. Bummer.
    We have only bothersome weeds (no poison ivy, that is) in our yard that we pull up one by one. Time-consuming and a bit frustrating, since it's impossible to get all the crab grass, but we just sigh, and life goes on. As long as the weeds don't get too high and kill our herbs!
    Good luck with that ivy!
    Florence, Italy

  2. Don-

    Re your agent orange piece. Do you know of any other known mm toxins? Do you know of any detoxification methods?

    David Emerson