The weed killer atrazine, sold under numerous brand names including AAtrex, is most often used on corn in farming states, but it is also commonly applied to lawns, gardens, parks and golf courses. Unfortunately, it is particularly bad about washing into nearby water supplies and contaminating them; in so doing, it has become one of the country’s most prevalent water contaminants. As atrazine comes under the spotlight, researchers are discovering that it can cause severe birth defects at concentrations much lower than levels previously deemed “safe” by the EPA.
In recent years, five epidemiological studies published in peer-reviewed journals have found evidence suggesting that small amounts of atrazine in drinking water, including levels considered safe by federal standards, may be associated with birth defects — including skull and facial malformations and misshapen limbs — as well as low birth weights in newborns and premature births. Defects and premature births are leading causes of infant deaths. –NY Times
Experiments are also showing that animals who are exposed to brief doses of atrazine before birth become more susceptible to cancer later on in life.
As part of its infinitely reasonable precautionary policy to eliminate all pesticides that easily contaminate groundwater, the European Union has banned the use of atrazine. But thus far, the EPA has refused both to re-evaluate the safety of the chemical and to take steps to prevent our water supplies from being contaminated by it.
Lawsuits have been filed against makers of atrazine (notably Syngenta, the chemical’s primary manufacturer) by forty-three different water systems in six states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Ohio), which if won, will force the companies to pay for removing this dangerous chemical from drinking water. Let’s hope these suits open the eyes of the EPA to the seriousness of this problem.