In mid-November, the Trump administration announced plans to weaken environmental safeguards for atrazine, a pesticide linked to a number of serious health effects in humans — including birth defects and cancer.
The change will increase the amount of atrazine allowed in waterways across the United States by 50%.
A potent danger
While banned in the EU, atrazine is the second most used pesticide in the U.S. and is widely found in the country’s waterways and drinking water supplies — as of 2012, atrazine was found in 89.2% of U.S. drinking water.
This is incredibly alarming due to the myriad of health and environmental impacts connected to the chemical. A potent endocrine disruptor, atrazine interferes with hormonal activity of humans and animals at extremely low doses.
Alongside independent research, EPA itself confirmed the dangers of atrazine in a multi-year risk assessment, and in 2016 unveiled a plan to reduce the levels of atrazine used by threefold.
This abrupt about-face on the chemical comes after the pesticide’s manufacturer, Syngenta, and the National Corn Growers Association asked the agency to discount independent research demonstrating the pesticide’s harm at lower levels. In October 2017, former Syngenta lobbyist Jeff Sands was appointed as a senior agricultural advisor to then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity shared:
“To please Syngenta, the Trump EPA has rejected decades of independent research showing atrazine can’t be safely used at any level. With Trump’s EPA reversing even the most commonsense protections, our health, and the health of all species, is in serious danger.”
About 70 million pounds of atrazine are used in the United States each year, and with this reversal that number is about to get higher. And for what? According to analyses, dropping atrazine would result in yield losses of less than 1%.
Farmers are already using innovative production systems to raise corn without atrazine, and since Germany and Italy banned atrazine in 1991, corn yields and acres harvested have gone up, rather than down. This is just another instance of Trump’s EPA bowing to the agrichemical industry to benefit their own bottom line — it has nothing to do with the wellbeing of farmers.