Atrazine is a weed killer primarily used on corn. Atrazine is the most common chemical contaminant of ground and surface water in the United States.
Atrazine. It’s in our lakes, streams and drinking water at levels that make a difference to human health. Scientists link exposure to increased risk of birth defects, infertility and possibly cancer.
Who’s responsible? The Syngenta corporation — the world’s largest pesticide company. They’re working overtime to promote and protect their flagship product in the U.S., despite the fact that it’s long been banned in their home county of Switzerland. Syngenta has intimidated scientists, pressured regulators and paid an economist to manufacture faulty studies — all to keep an unnecessary product on the market.
Atrazine is found more often than any other pesticide in U.S. groundwater. The weed killer is one of the most widely used pesticides in the U.S. — and the world. More than 76 million pounds are used in this country each year, mostly on corn fields. Smaller amounts are used on other crops too, from sugarcane to cauliflower to Christmas trees.
Atrazine is good at killing weeds in part because of its stability; it can stick around for up to 100 days in the soil. This also makes it a pollution problem. Once it leaches into groundwater, it can remain there for decades.
Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor. In tests performed on frogs, atrazine shrunk male specimens’ voice boxes. The chemical also deformed reproductive organs, turning many frogs into hermaphrodites.
Many of the frogs possessed more than two testes and ovaries. Numerous tests on these frogs caused males to produce eggs instead of sperm. Some of the frogs literally changed sexes completely, losing their male organs and growing ovaries. Deformities occurred in frogs which were exposed to as little as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine.
To put that in perspective, that’s 30 times smaller than the EPA’s limit of three ppb allowed in drinking water.
Atrazine has been denied regulatory approval by the European Union and is, thus, banned, in Europe, even in Switzerland, the home of the manufacturer.
Despite the environmental and public health risks, Atrazine continues to be used in the US, for economic reasons. Atrazine may only increase corn yield by as little as 1.2 % (and not at all according to some studies. The agri-giant Syngenta, however, has a very powerful lobby and spent $250,000 lobbying in Minnesota alone in 2005 to keep Atrazine on the market there.
With as little as 1.2 % increase in corn, a crop that we consume less than 2% of, in a world where 20% of the population will die of starvation, it is incumbent upon us to become involved in the regulatory process regarding Atrazine. We (the public) must play an active role in this regulatory decision.