This news item was created by students Matt Krna, Andrea Sano, Brandi Schottel, Nick Vaughn, Jessica Cuba, and Mel King as part of their Chemistry 212 Collaborative Group Activities in WS00 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 20. Carboxylic Acids.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

by Dan Ferber, PhD (onhealth in-depth reports, November 6, 1996)

Editorial Comments

Thomas Jefferson believed agriculture was essential to American economics and society as a whole. This historical importance is part of America's desire to protect its dwindling "breadbasket." A wide variety of pesticide and herbicide companies have evolved throughout the years as a result of the desperation to preserve the fertile lands. However, as years have gone by, and more sophisticated chemical testing techniques have evolved, many of these pesticides have proven to be extremely hazardous to all forms of life by environmental and public health advocates, especially the Environmental Protection Agency .

The societal importance of herbicides and pesticides has crossed over into the more domestic side of American life. Gardening has become a pastime and a source of pride for an increasing number of households, resulting in a more specific use for herbicides. Many Americans have taken the mindset of efficiency, preferring to use chemicals as opposed to performing the time-consuming, physical labor required to pull weeds. America's search for quick and easy solutions has resulted in many hazardous chemicals being poured all over our nation's lands. Parents want a wonderful, green, lush lawn where their children can play, without putting in a great amount of time or effort.

One common herbicide in particular, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid is the most extensively researched herbicide on the market. The Extoxnet has profiled many studies of the long-term effects of 2,4 D and concluded that it causes health hazards in animals and is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Certainly, the solution to this problem seems to be simply not to come in contact with the herbicide when it is first applied. Unfortunately, according to the article, avoidance is not as simple as it seems.

Strangely enough, Americans, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, are still trying to justify the pollution of lawns with a chemical that makes up 50% of all the chemicals found in the poisonous warfare gas, Agent Orange.

Perhaps, America should focus more on alternative methods rather than herbicides and pesticides. If all else fails, the country could always get down on its hands and knees to pull out those weeds!

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 20. Carboxylic Acids.
Chapter 20.8. Synthesis of Carboxylic Acids.
Chapter 17.8. Halogen Substituents: Deactivating, but Ortho-Para Directing


Question 1: Look up 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, using the 2,4 D link. What is the compound used for? Draw its structure.

Question 2: Using the link, "health hazards," find out the long-term health effects of 2,4 D on humans.

Question 3: Synthesize the structure, starting with benzene, and any other reagents or solvents necessary.

Question 4: Using the Extoxnet link, find problems with the methods of testing, and by interpreting the results, decide whether or not 2,4-D has chronic, long-term effects on humans.

Question 5: Banning 2,4-D would result in losses to the aesthetics of lawns as well as economic losses to herbicide companies. However, this ban may protect life and the environment. What should the future of 2,4-D be? What consequences of no restrictions on 2,4-D have on the environment? Answers

Answer 1: See chemfinder for chemical structure. 2,4-D is a herbicide used in lawn and gardening care.

Answer 2: There are many long-term effects, some of which are detrimental to blood, kidneys and liver in animals.

Answer 3:

Answer 4: Methods used exposed humans to really high levels of 2,4-D, much higher levels than normal. These methods could have skewed the results, making 2,4-D seem more carcinogenic to humans than it really is.