Third of ALL Americans exposed to Agent Orange pesticide 'linked to cancer', new study warns

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A THIRD of all Americans have traces of potentially cell-changing weed killer in their body, a new study has found.

Scientists have warned that one in three Americans have been exposed to weed-killing 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), according to a study published in the journal Environmental Health. 

Researchers at George Washington University in DC said the objective of their study was to "examine trends in 2,4-D urinary biomarker concentrations" in the hopes of determining whether "increases in 2,4-D application in agriculture are associated with increases in biomonitoring levels of urine 2,4-D."

Indeed, the team found this to be the case when their results revealed that nearly 33 percent of the 14,395 Americans they tested had detectable levels of 2,4-D in their urine.

And the trend seems to only be going upward as the number of Americans with high levels of2,4-D has dramatically increased from 17 percent in 2001–2002 to 39 percent in 2011–2012.

"Our study suggests human exposures to 2,4-D have gone up significantly and they are predicted to rise even more in the future," Marlaina Freisthler, a Ph.D. student and researcher at George Washington University, said in a statement.

"These findings raise concerns with regard to whether this heavily used weed-killer might cause health problems, especially for young children who are very sensitive to chemical exposures," she added.

The weed-killing acid is one of the most frequently used herbicides in the United States and kills broadleaf weeds by setting off unrestricted cell growth.

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In fact, in 2012, the herbicide was the most widely used in non-agricultural settings, and "the fifth most heavily applied pesticide in the US agricultural sector," the study's abstract stated.

The chemical was also infamously used in Agent Orange, the herbicide employed by the US Army to strip the trees of leaves in the Vietnam War.

Early last year, one study actually concluded there to be a strong link between Agent Orange exposure and dementia in US Veterans of the Vietnam era.

Despite this, it appears that experts cannot seem to quite agree on the extent of the health implications of 2,4-D, which can be picked up by playing on a lawn, or through food and agriculture.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has gone on the record to say that 2,4-D is generally not toxic to humans except for the occasional eye irritation.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) released a study in 2015 that found the pesticide could “possibly” cause cancer.

Conflicting viewpoints aside, scientists do agree on the fact that more testing needs to be done to determine the health risk of the widespread chemical.

“Further study must determine how rising exposure to 2,4-D affects human health – especially when exposure occurs early in life," Melissa Perry, senior author of the paper and a professor of environmental and occupational health told IFL Science.

"In addition to exposure to this pesticide, children and other vulnerable groups are also increasingly exposed to other pesticides and these chemicals may act synergistically to produce health problems," she added.

In other news, a four-tonne chunk of a SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the Moon, according to online space junk trackers.

Boeing has sunk $450million into a flying taxi startup that hopes to whisk passengers across cities by the end of the decade.

Personalized smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may finally become available to US consumers this year.

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