GENEVA – After a plea by three parents who asked the Geneva District 304 school board to consider not using a herbicide to control weeds, another parent spoke in favor of using it – and called out the other parents’ concerns as “fearmongering.”
Holly Heimlich spoke to the school board at its Aug. 12 meeting, countering previous cautions about the use of 2,4-D possibly causing cancer as not scientifically valid.
“I think it is a disservice to our school district, the board members and the entire community when people use fear rather than facts to convince us that something is harmful,” Heimlich said. “We are arguing about one of the safest pesticides in existence. I agree that there are definite reasons to avoid certain pesticides and we should limit exposure as much as possible. What I don’t support is fearmongering to push an agenda. I don’t support perpetuating a fear of chemicals when everything is a chemical – including water.”
Rachael Fabbi, a chiropractic internist, Dr. Lawrence Yoo, a medical doctor, and Samantha Malusky spoke to the school board at its July 22 meeting, providing information about the dangers of using that herbicide.
“We are not fearmongering,” Yoo said. “We stand by what we presented. And we are open to discussion if anyone has any questions. We are trying to have a safe approach if we can mow and not use chemicals.”
Heimlich said when the International Agency for Research on Cancer stated 2,4-D was “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” the category included aloe vera and pickled vegetables. A category designated as probably carcinogenic to humans included drinking hot beverages. Another category stated that an ingredient in alcoholic beverages was carcinogenic to humans.
“You cannot assess that drinking alcohol is fine, but being exposed to 2,4-D at a nonoccupational level will harm you,” Heimlich said.
She cited other agencies and countries whose studies consistently conclude that 2,4-D does not present a human cancer risk.
“There are reasons to avoid certain pesticides,” Heimlich said. “What I don’t support is fearmongering. Fear of chemicals.”
The herbicide 2,4-D was a component of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam. The ingredient of Agent Orange that caused health risks to veterans was dioxin, an unintended byproduct.
“It is removed through urination. … It does not accumulate in the body. 2,4-D has not been linked to health problems in pregnant mothers or infants,” Heimlich said. “2,4-D also gets rid of poison ivy, poison oak and gets rid of weeds that can potentially attract ticks.”
Heimlich said the district sprays one application every spring, so exposure is minimal.
Using 2,4-D promotes healthy turf grass, which aids against sports injuries, and it allows farmers to avoid tilling, thereby reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gasses, Heimlich said. She added there is no evidence that it is harmful to bees.
“In conclusion, this shouldn’t be anyone’s hill to die on,” Heimlich said. “There are absolutely some nasty pesticides out there, but they are not being used on the District 304 school grounds.”
Board President Mark Grosso said the board and school officials were still reviewing options.
“Most of the districts around us do the same thing we are doing now,” Grosso said. “We are not going to jump in and change anything right away. In the great scheme of things, this is something we are going to look at through the fall and into the winter. If we make any decisions, it would be before any spring applications. Right now, we are hearing from both sides and we have to take everything into consideration.”