Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Atrazine Under Attack in US

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised its doubts at the start of a four day public meeting on 14 September 2010 about the non-cancer human health problems associated with atrazine in epidemiological studies. An advisory panel was set up to advise the EPA.

Atrazine has been widely used by farmers in America for 50 years, mainly in the Midwest as an herbicide, primarily while growing corn, sorghum and sugar cane. It’s also used on lawns, especially in Florida and the Southeast. It is claimed that this is the cheapest method of weed control for farmers and removing it from the market would cause hardship and great financial loss.

In October 2009, the EPA launched a re-evaluation of this chemical with specific reference to human health. Atrazine is found in drinking water and peer reviewed scientific studies show a connection to cancer and hormone disruption. Non-epidemiology effects are being reviewed now and cancer effects will be evaluated next year. The 677 page issue paper is called "EPA Re-evaluation of Human Health Effects of Atrazine: Review of Non-Cancer Epidemiology, Experimental Animal and In Vitro Studies and Drinking Water Monitoring Frequencies" and available here.  On a personal note, I wonder if my Brita filter covers this!

Syngenta is the main producer of this chemical and it has been active in the defence of it. The Principal Scientist from Syngenta, Tim Pastoor, gave evidence to an EPA panel in April that atrazine was well monitored by the corporation and levels of atrazine found in drinking water were well below the maximum allowances. At yesterday’s meeting, he claimed that the studies were flawed because overdosing the rats in tests produced unreliable results.

The UK Environment Agency (EA) says that in addition to contaminating groundwater, atrazine is harmful to wildlife. With reference to human health risks, the EA specifically earmarks the digestive system, eye, heart, kidney, liver and skin as vulnerable to adverse effects from this man-made chemical. Therefore, atrazine is in the Pollution Inventory and its use is governed by various pieces of legislation. It is a UK Red List pollutant and being reviewed under the proposed Water Framework (EU) Directive. “Internationally it is listed as a candidate substance for selection, assessment and prioritisation under the OSPAR and Helsinki Conventions.” (EA website)

See also these further US references:

EPA Pesticides Re-registration (please note that this website is a little slow and some of the information is restricted, but mostly attainable by request)

Atrazine News (with short video on how farmers would be affected)

Agricultural Health Study