The herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) has been commercially available since the 1940’s. Despite decades of data on 2,4-D in food, air, soil, and water, as well as in humans, the quality the quality of these data has not been comprehensively evaluated. Using selected elements of the Biomonitoring, Environmental Epidemiology, and Short-lived Chemicals (BEES-C) instrument (temporal variability, avoidance of sample contamination, analyte stability, and urinary methods of matrix adjustment), the quality of 156 publications of environmental- and biomonitoring-based 2,4-D data was examined. Few publications documented steps were taken to avoid sample contamination. Similarly, most studies did not demonstrate the stability of the analyte from sample collection to analysis. Less than half of the biomonitoring publications reported both creatinine-adjusted and unadjusted urine concentrations. The scope and detail of data needed to assess temporal variability and sources of 2,4-D varied widely across the reviewed studies. Exposures to short-lived chemicals such as 2,4-D are impacted by numerous and changing external factors including application practices and formulations. At a minimum, greater transparency in reporting of quality control measures is needed. Perhaps the greatest challenge for the exposure community is the ability to reach consensus on how to address problems specific to short-lived chemical exposures in observational epidemiology investigations. More extensive conversations are needed to advance our understanding of human exposures and enable interpretation of these data to catch up to analytical capabilities. The problems defined in this review remain exquisitely difficult to address for chemicals like 2,4-D, with short and variable environmental and physiological half-lives and with exposures impacted by numerous and changing external factors.
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