Posted on 16 February 2011.
Atrazine is one of the world’s most popular herbicides, used on farms and gardens worldwide. However, atrazine can be washed into surface water by rain, and from there contaminate groundwater and pass into drinking water. Atrazine in water has been connected with a variety of fetal and reproductive problems. This article will give you the facts about atrazine and how you can protect yourself against possible atrazine contamination in drinking water.
What Is Atrazine?
Atrazine is the most widely used weed killer in the world. It has been used for over 50 years worldwide, primarily to treat corn, sugar cane, and sorghum crops, but it is also used in other applications, such as on lawns and golf courses. Atrazine, combined with fertilizer, can ensure that crops grow faster, larger, and healthier. Since it is cheap and works well, it is extremely popular, and 76 million tons of atrazine are applied to American crops every year, according the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, atrazine can also be toxic to humans and must be handled carefully.
Effects of Atrazine on Humans
Atrazine interferes with the body’s natural process of creating and using hormones. The United States Department of Health and Human Services has noted that atrazine exposure is connected to birth defects, low birth weight, premature birth, and fertility problems, including difficulty menstruating in women and low sperm production in men. Atrazine may also cause cancer, although a link has not yet been proven.
Controversy Over Atrazine Use
The EPA tightened its rules on the use of atrazine in 1993 in order to cut down on water contamination. Meanwhile, the European Union banned atrazine in 2004. Independent water monitoring studies have continued to show atrazine contamination at higher levels than the EPA’s “safe” level, and atrazine is one of the most common types of water pollution in America. Many independent agencies, including the National Resources Defense Council, have produced studies showing that even small doses of atrazine in water can have severe effects on fetal health. The EPA is in the process of studying and revising its rules on atrazine.
Atrazine in Water
Rainwater runoff from fields can wash whatever substances were used to treat the crops into creeks and streams, and from there into rivers, ponds, and reservoirs. This can lead to atrazine and fertilizer in water. Atrazine can even leach into well water. Atrazine in water contamination is particularly widespread in farming states in the Midwest and South, including along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. Concentrations of atrazine in water are highest in spring and summer, when the herbicide is used most heavily. But atrazine breaks down very slowly in water, so contaminated water can remain unsafe for up to a year after the initial application.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Atrazine?
While most local water companies test their water for atrazine, they do not always report the results to consumers. Ask your water provider for information on atrazine. If you are concerned about contamination, the EPA’s tests have shown that a simple activated charcoal filter will reduce atrazine in water to a safe level. If buying a filter, look for one that is certified to meet ANSI standard 53 for volatile organic compounds. If you stay on your toes, you can stay safe from Atrazine.