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Atrazine is up for reevaluation
Syngenta Corp, the largest manufacturer of the weed killer Atrazine, had 11 billion in revenues in 2010. Syngenta is based in Switzerland, yet Atrazine is banned in the EU. Atrazine (a triazine herbicide) is the second most widely used herbicide in the United States after glyphosate (RoundUp). It is also readily used in Australia and Asia. The U.S. deposits 80 million pounds per year on corn fields, golf courses and lawns and the herbicide easily finds its way into streams, rivers and groundwater. Atrazine can stick around for up to 100 days in soil, but it much prefers to leach into groundwater, where it can remain for decades. Atrazine also evaporates into the air after application, in a process called volatilization drift. After drifting, it comes back into our waterways via rainfall. Atrazine has been found in rainwater more than 180 miles from the nearest application area.1
Who is responsible for checking Atrazine quantities in our drinking water?
Each chemical that makes it into our drinking water should be thoroughly assessed for toxicity. The chemical then needs to have a high end quantity determined, and then it needs to be regularly tested for. Unfortunately many times these standards and testing rates are strongly influenced by industry. Toxicity tests are performed by the manufacturer which influence the standards set by the governing autority (EPA), which most times has funding for only very basic testing and oft times those tests and testing procedures are outdated. And even if one chemical is analyzed as to toxicity, what about the synergistic affects of the myriad chemicals that find their way into our drinking water?
Atrazine's limit has been set at 3 parts per billion (ppb) - yet that is the annual average. In the U.S. under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, state regulators must test local drinking water for atrazine at least once a year, and some test a maximum of quarterly. The local water authorities are 'only' required to report data collected by the state during these infrequent tests. Since weedkiller is applied seasonally, atrazine levels jump in spring and summer. Spikes as high as 59 ppb in April have been found in groundwater.2 But a municipality might test right before a spike or after atrazine levels have receded. So, average annual reports from your local water authority often do not reflect the spring and summer spikes.
Recent testing in agricultural states in the U.S., from 20 different watersheds, found all twenty watersheds positive for atrazine. Sixteen of those watersheds had "average concentrations above the level that has been shown to harm plants and wildlife."3
Atrazine Toxicity = Reproductive Toxicity
Many scientists say that atrazine below 3 ppb is unsafe, especially to pregnant women. Atrazine has been associated with birth defects, low birth weights and premature births.4 A Perdue University study found that concentrations as low as .1 ppb (30 times lower than allowed by the EPA) may be associated with low birth weights.5 Another study, published in the medical journal Acta Paediatrica, found that atrazine increases the risk of nine different birth defects, and that birth defect rates in the U.S. were highest for women who conceived during months when atrazine levels were spiking.6
According to University of California, Berkeley biologists, atrazine wreaks havoc with the sex lives of adult male frogs, in studies it chemically castrated 75-90 percent of them and turns one in 10 males into females, and leaves the rest with a low sperm count, all at levels as low as .1 ppb (30x lower than the EPA standard). These results can skew a population's sex ratios into oblivion.7 Leaving many to question whether atrazine may be a cause of amphibian declines around the world.
Scientists believe the pesticide interferes with endocrine hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. And the EPA officially considers atrazine to be a potential hormone disruptor -- but has yet to ban it. A new study released in the fall of 2011, compared woman in Vermont and Illinois. The Illinois resident's tap water had double the concentration of atrazine than the Vermont communities’ water. The study revealed that the women from Illinois farm towns were nearly five times more likely to report irregular periods than the Vermont women, and more than six times as likely to go more than six weeks between periods. In addition, the Illinois women had significantly lower levels of estrogen during an important part of the menstrual cycle.8 Research on fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals have turned up additional alarms as well.9 So far, only Syngenta's studies show that atrazine is not an endocrine disruptor.
Can't live without it?
The EU banned atrazine in 2004 and is doing fine without it. Several countries that have a policy of banning chemicals that occur in drinking water at levels higher than 0.1 parts per billion had even banned the herbicide before that.
According to the Pesticide Action Network: "Corn yields and acreage have actually gone up in Germany and Italy since those countries banned atrazine in 1991. According to recent analysis, dropping atrazine completely from U.S. corn fields would result in yield losses of approximately 0 to 1%, much lower than industry estimates."10 Currently, 75 percent of all U.S. cornfields are treated with atrazine.
Atrazine is Syngenta's cash cow and they are fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way.
Atrazine is applied to lawns, golf courses, cauliflower, Christmas trees, summer fallow, winter wheat, guava, macadamia nuts and more than half of all U.S. corn, two-thirds of sorghum and nearly 90% of all U.S. sugar cane.
Please sign the Petitions by Nov 14 (when the EPA closes the new evaluation) -
EPA comment - no need to fill out the left side of the page.
Center for Biological Diversity
Save the Frogs
Scotts -- Bonus S Weed and Feed
Ortho -- Atrazine Plus
Hi-Yield -- Atrazine Lawn Weed Killer
Syngenta -- AAtrex Line
From Atrazine Weed Killer Label
This pesticide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Do not apply to water or wetlands. Runoff or drift from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in neighboring areas. Do not contaminate water when dis- posing of equipment washwaters. Atrazine can travel (seep or leach) through soil and can enter groundwater which may be used as drinking water. Atrazine has been found in groundwater. Users are advised not to apply Atrazine to sand and loamy sand soils where the water table (groundwater) is close to the surface and where these soils are very permeable., i.e., well-drained. Your local agricultural agencies can provide further information on the type of soil in your area and the location of groundwater.
See PBS's The Thin Green Line -- clip here: inspirationgreen.com/frogs-the-thin-green-line -- Tyrone Hayes and his students from the University of California at Berkeley are studying how agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides, are affecting the health of frogs.
2. 59.57 ppb in Piqua, Ohio -- April 2005, the only time tested that year.
- Poisoning the Well: How the EPA is Ignoring Atrazine Contamination in the Central United States, a Natural Resources Defense Concil report, released August 2009.
- Still Poisoning the Well: Atrazine Continues to Contaminate Surface Water and Drinking Water in the United States. This is NRDC's update to its 2009 report.
- The Syngenta Corporation and Atrazine: The Cost to the Land, People and Democracy, a joint PANNA/Land Stewardship Project report released January 5, 2010.
NPR interview with researcher Dr. Tyrone Hayes about his findings that atrazine "chemically castrates" male frogs. March 7, 2010.