US Drinking Water and Watersheds Widely Contaminated by Hormone Disrupting Pesticide, Atrazine

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Josh Mogerman, 312-651-7909 (office) or 773-531-5359 (mobile) or jmogerman@nrdc.org

US Drinking Water and Watersheds Widely Contaminated by Hormone Disrupting Pesticide, Atrazine

Analysis of Water Data Reveals Broad Contamination Ignored by EPA Monitoring

CHICAGO - A widely used pesticide known to impact wildlife development and,
potentially, human health has contaminated watersheds and drinking
water throughout much of the United States, according to a new report
released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Banned
by the European Union, atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide
in U.S. waters and is a known endocrine disruptor, which means that it
affects human and animal hormones. It has been tied to poor sperm
quality in humans and hermaphroditic amphibians.

"Evidence
shows Atrazine contamination to be a widespread and dangerous problem
that has not been communicated to the people most at risk," said
Jennifer Sass, PhD, NRDC Senior Scientist and an author of the report.
"U.S. EPA is ignoring some very high concentrations of this pesticide
in water that people are drinking and using every day. This exposure
could have a considerable impact on reproductive health. Scientific
research has tied this chemical to some ghastly impacts on wildlife and
raises red flags for possible human impacts."

"People
living in contaminated areas need to be made aware -- and the
regulators need to get this product off the market," said Sass. 

The report, "Poisoning the Well: How the EPA is Ignoring Atrazine Contamination in Surface and Drinking Water in the Central United States"
creates a ground breaking analysis of atrazine pollution by bringing
together data from watershed monitoring and drinking water compliance
programs for the first time. 

The report reveals that
all of the watersheds monitored by EPA and 90% of the drinking water
sampled tested positive for atrazine. Contamination was most severe in
Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Nebraska.  An extensive U.S.
Geological Survey study found that approximately 75 percent of stream
water and about 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural
areas contained atrazine, and according to the New York Times, an
estimated 33 million Americans have been exposed to atrazine through
their drinking water systems.

"The extent of
contamination we found in the data was breathtaking and alarming," said
Andrew Wetzler, Director of NRDC's Wildlife Conservation Program and
Deputy Director of NRDC's Midwest Program, as well as one of the
report's authors. "The EPA found atrazine almost everywhere they
looked. I think that the public will find this hard to swallow and I
hope it will help force the EPA to address the situation more
aggressively."

Click here for the full report, including detailed maps of affected areas and Google Earth applications.

The contamination data in the report was obtained as the result of a legal settlement and Freedom of Information Act requests. "Poisoning the Well"
highlights watersheds and municipal water treatment systems most
affected by the chemical contamination, offers policy solutions, and
describes actions that people can take to protect themselves from
exposure to this dangerous chemical in their water.

Atrazine
is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under
the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA has determined that an annual
average of no more than 3 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine may be
present in drinking water. One of the chief findings of the report was
that this reliance on a "running annual average" allows levels of
atrazine in drinking water to peak at extremely high concentrations.

Given
the pesticide's limited economic value and the fact that safer
agricultural methods can be substituted to achieve similar results,
NRDC recommends phasing out the use of atrazine, more effective
atrazine monitoring, the adoption of farming techniques that can help
minimize the use of atrazine to prevent it from running into waterways.
The report also underscores the importance of using home filtration
systems.

The effects associated with atrazine have been
documented extensively. Reproductive effects have been seen in
amphibians even at low levels of exposure. Concentrations as low as 0.1
ppb, for example, have been shown to alter the development of sex
characteristics in male frogs, resulting in male frogs with female sex
characteristics and the presence of eggs in male frog testes. Some
scientists are concerned about exposure for children and pregnant
women, as small doses could impact development of the brain and
reproductive organs. Research has also raised concerns about atrazine's
"synergistic" affects, showing potential for the chemical having a
multiplier affect to increase toxic affects of other chemical
co-contaminants in the environment.

The report includes
information on actions people can take to protect themselves from
Atrazine and other dangerous contaminants. NRDC recommends that
consumers concerned about atrazine contamination in their water use a
simple and economical household water filter, such as one that fits on
the tap. Consumers should make sure that the filter they choose is
certified by NSF International to meet American National Standards
Institute (ANSI) Standard 53 for VOC (volatile organic compounds)
reduction and therefore capable of significantly reducing many
health-related contaminants, including atrazine and other pesticides.

Additionally,
NRDC's SimpleSteps Web site includes an online form to allow people to
take on a watchdog role by collecting information on how their public
water systems are treating these issues. Visit www.simplesteps.org/atrazine for more information.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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