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W.H.O. agency says agent orange is 'possibly carcinogenic', DDT probably, and lindane certainly

The Lyon-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a subsidiary of the World Health Organization, has issued classifications for the carcinogenity of three major herbicide/pesticides including 2,4-D, an ingredient of agent orange, used by the U.S. against Viet Cong-controlled territory in Vietnam.

The controversial agent got the headlines on the EurActiv website in its 30 June report, but the IARC Working Group of 26 specialists from 13 countries classified DDT as even more likely to cause cancers (Group 2A: probably carcinogenic to humans), and put the insecticide lindane in the most dangerous category (Group 1: carcinogenic to humans).

IARC's news release, on 23 June 2015, said: "The herbicide 2,4-D was classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on inadequate evidence in humans and limited evidence in experimental animals."

A summary of the final evaluations is available online at The Lancet Oncology but requires registration to view.

Used by amateur gardeners

EurArchiv's article, a translation of Romain Loury's piece in the Journal de l'Environnement, quoted the spokesperson for a French non-governmental organization campaigning against 2,4-D as observing that the agent is included in many formulas still authorized for use by amateur gardeners.

IARC's news release said: "There is strong evidence that 2,4-D induces oxidative stress, a mechanism that can operate in humans, and moderate evidence that 2,4-D causes immunosuppression, based on in vivo and in vitro studies. However, epidemiological studies did not find strong or consistent increases in risk of NHL or other cancers in relation to 2,4-D exposure."

As for lindane, IARC concluded: "Large epidemiological studies of agricultural exposures in the USA and Canada showed a 60% increased risk of NHL in those exposed to lindane."

IARC's news release does not mention 2,4-D's use in Vietnam. It says only: "Occupational exposures to 2,4-D can occur during manufacturing and application, and the general population can be exposed through food, water, dust, or residential application, and during spraying."

French ban on glysophate

The Working Group classified glysophate (used in the herbicide Roundup) as "probably carcinogenic" (2A) in March 2015, leading the French Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royale to ban it from sale by January 2016.

An earlier EuroActiv report on glysophate noted that Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, strongly contested the IARC classification. "Relevant, scientific data was excluded from review," it said in a news release.

"Each of the studies considered by IARC have been previously reviewed and considered by regulatory agencies - most recently by the German government on behalf of the European Union," it noted.

Sources

IARC: News release 23 June 2015 (PDF)

EurArchiv: 30 June 2015 WHO re-classifies Agent Orange herbicide as 'carcinogenic'

EurArchiv: AFP 1 April 2015: UN cancer agency issues warning about five pesticides

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