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Pesticide Action Network

Midwest communities find atrazine in their water

Today, PAN released water sampling results from communities across four Midwestern states — Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota — that indicate atrazine is present in drinking water at levels well above those linked to birth defects and low birth weight.

Exposure to this common herbicide and potent endocrine disruptor can also increase risk of several types of cancer, including ovarian and thyroid.

Atrazine is found more often than any other pesticide in groundwater — 94% of drinking water tested by USDA contains the chemical. The weedkiller is the second most widely used pesticide in the U.S.; more than 76 million pounds were used last year, mostly on Midwestern corn fields. Exposures are real and ongoing, and so are the health risks associated with them.

Results released today show that on average, levels frequently found in drinking water are five times the former legal limit in Europe (before the chemical was banned there in 2003), and five times the levels associated with adverse health effects.

One sample from Illinois — where atrazine is most heavily applied — contained levels above the EPA legal limit for the chemical in drinking water.

Spotlight on low-level effects

Public awareness about the dangerous health impacts of atrazine and other endocrine disruptors is on the rise. Even micro-doses of these “hormone mimicking” chemicals can trigger large, irreversible human health effects. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff wrote earlier this week:

These days there is growing evidence linking this class of chemicals to problems in humans. These include breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early menstruation and even diabetes and obesity.

A film premiering tomorrow — Last Call at the Oasis also highlights the problem of increased exposure to atrazine, and details the corporate shenanigans that keep a chemical known to pose serious health risks still on the market. Syngenta, maker of atrazine and the largest pesticide corporation in the world, has actively attempted to suppress science related to atrazine’s environmental and health impacts. As seen in the film, the company has pressured policymakers and attempted first to buy off, then to discredit scientists like Tyrone Hayes, whose research indicates atrazine is unsafe.

High stakes demand swift action

Six months have passed since EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) reprimanded the agency for lowballing the cancer risks of atrazine, and no action has been taken.

According to the SAP, there is “strong” evidence linking atrazine to thyroid cancer, and “suggestive” evidence linking the chemical to ovarian, hairy-cell leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. On breast, prostate, childhood and a few other cancers, “there is inadequate evidence to determine” whether or not atrazine causes cancer. Looking at this same body of evidence EPA somehow found that atrazine is “not likely to be carcinogenic.”

Six months of no response while millions of Americans — especially Midwesterners — are exposed to atrazine through their drinking water on a daily basis is unacceptable.

Take action» Please join us in urging EPA to take the current review of atrazine seriously, and to follow the science — wherever it may lead.

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Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

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