ToxFAQsTM for 2,4-D
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This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions (FAQs) about 2,4-D. This fact sheet is one in a series of summaries about hazardous substances and their health effects. It is important you understand this information because this substance may harm you. The effects of exposure to any hazardous substance depend on the dose, the duration, how you are exposed, personal traits and habits, and whether other chemicals are present.
What is 2,4-D?
2,4-D is the chemical 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid.
2,4-D is the active ingredient in many products used in the United States and throughout the world as an herbicide to kill weeds on land and in the water.
How can I be exposed to 2,4-D?
You may be exposed to 2,4-D when applying products that contain 2,4-D if you breathe it in or get it on your skin.
You may also be exposed to 2,4-D while walking or playing on very recently treated lawns, gardens, golf courses, parks, or other grassy areas.
When workers make 2,4-D or apply it to weeds, they may have higher exposures.
You are unlikely to be exposed to high levels of 2,4-D in food, water, or soil.
How can 2,4-D affect my health?
The levels of 2,4-D found in the environment are lower than levels known to cause health problems.
Respiratory (nose and lungs) and nervous system effects were
seen in people who purposely or accidentally swallowed large
amounts of 2,4 D. These serious effects are not likely to
happen at the levels of 2,4-D that are usually found in the
One way to learn about whether 2,4-D will harm people is to do studies on laboratory animals.
Animals given large oral doses of 2,4-D showed harmful effects on the blood, liver, kidney, and
thyroid gland. These doses were generally much higher than levels usually found in the
How can 2,4-D affect children?
Some studies of animals given 2,4-D during pregnancy found low body weights in the offspring. Some
changes in behavior were also seen in the offspring. However, the doses given to the animals were much
higher than levels that would normally be a human exposure.
Can 2,4-D cause cancer?
A few studies of farmers or professional applicators of herbicides containing 2,4-D reported
increased risk of lymphatic system (part of the immune system) cancers, especially Non-Hodgkin’s
lymphoma (NHL). These workers were exposed to higher amounts of 2,4-D than most people.
2,4-D did not appear to cause cancer in studies of rats, mice, or dogs given 2,4-D orally for up to 2 years.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 2,4-D to be not classifiable as to human
carcinogenicity (causing cancer in people) because they do not have enough human and animal
data. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers 2,4-D to be possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Can I get a medical test to check for 2,4-D?
Tests are available to measure levels of 2,4-D in blood, urine, and body tissues. These tests are not usually
available in the doctor’s office. However, a sample taken in the doctor’s office can be sent to a special
laboratory. Because 2,4-D leaves the body rather quickly, these tests are useful only for a few days after
the exposure. These tests cannot predict if you will develop health problems from an exposure to 2,4-D. If
you think you have been exposed to 2,4-D, talk to your doctor or nurse right away.
How can I protect myself and my family from 2,4-D?
Workers involved in the production or use of 2,4-D should take protective measures to limit breathing and skin exposure to 2,4-D.
Stay away from people when they are using 2,4-D.
Read and follow all directions and precautions when using 2,4-D products and protect yourself with clothes.
Do not walk barefoot on an area that has been recently sprayed with products containing 2,4-D.
Do not let children or pets play in areas that have recently been sprayed.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2020. Toxicological Profile for 2,4-D. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
For more information:
Call CDC-INFO at 1-800-232-4636, or submit your question online at
Go to ATSDR's Toxicological Profile for 2,4-D:
Go to ATSDR's Toxic Substances Portal: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/TSP/index.aspx
Find & contact your ATSDR Regional Representative at https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/DRO/dro_org.html