Co-director, Pesticide Action Network
June 16, 2011
New science confirms health effects, concerned groups urge EPA to rely on independent studies
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Use of the Syngenta Corporation’s controversial herbicide atrazine continues to rise in the U.S., as scientists wrap up a thorough, 2-year review of the latest evidence on the chemical.
“The Syngenta Corporation continues to promote and profit from this chemical while U.S. farm families are put in harms way,” says Kathryn Gilje, Co-Director of the Pesticide Action Network, a national group which has been tracking EPA’s scientific review process.
“Not surprisingly, studies submitted to reviewers by Syngenta-sponsored science give the company’s flagship herbicide a clean bill of health,” continues Gilje. “From the beginning, we urged EPA’s reviewers to focus on independent science, and follow where it leads.”
The Syngenta Corporation, which is based in Switzerland where the herbicide has been banned, submitted more than 50 comments as part of the current atrazine review process – largely highlighting studies sponsored by the company showing that atrazine posed little or no risk of harming human health or the environment. For example, one meta-study recently submitted to the EPA docket by the company found no link between atrazine exposure and breast cancer risk. The study authors included at least two Syngenta employees and several researchers with strong ties to the company.
“Several scientific studies have found a link between long-term exposure to atrazine and breast cancer,” notes Physicians for Social Responsibility in a letter submitted to EPA’s docket for the review, citing independent research from Kentucky, the UK and multiple laboratory studies.
More than 150 studies on the health and environmental effects of atrazine have been completed since EPA’s last review, including strong evidence linking low-level exposure to human birth defects, infertility and several types of cancer.
“Studies have shown that babies conceived during the spring when levels of pesticides including atrazine are highest are more likely to develop birth defects, including spina bifida, Down syndrome and cleft palate,” the letter continues. PSR also highlights scientific findings on infertility, cancer and atrazine’s impacts on frogs and fish.
This week, PAN sent a letter with over 4,000 citizen signatures to Syngenta CEO Michael Mack, urging the company to pay attention to this science on birth defects.
Atrazine is found more often than any other pesticide in U.S. groundwater. In 2008, USDA found atrazine in 94% of drinking water samples tested. More than 76 million pounds are used in the U.S. each year, mostly on corn fields. Smaller amounts are used on other crops too, from sugarcane to cauliflower to Christmas trees.
In early 2010, PAN joined farm and farmworker groups in a letter to EPA calling for an open review process that considered the source of the science. Over the course of the last review held in 2003, Syngenta held more than 50 closed-door meetings with officials.
The Scientific Advisory Panel will now be crafting recommendations for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Available for Interviews:
Co-director, Pesticide Action Network North America
On atrazine uses & health effects:
On Syngenta influence in 2003 review:
“European Union Bans Atrazine, While the United States Negotiates Continued Use,” National Health Federation, 2006 http://www.thenhf.com/article.php?id=1345
EPA docket for current atrazine review:
On atrazine use levels:
“Syngenta calls time on fall in agrichemical prices,” AgriMoney.com, July 2011