Federal Government Moves Towards Potential Atrazine Phase-Out

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Josh Mogerman, 312-651-7909

Federal Government Moves Towards Potential Atrazine Phase-Out

Strong Action from USEPA likely informed by NRDC Report

WASHINGTON - Less than six weeks after the Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a far-reaching report on the
hormone disrupting pesticide Atrazine, the US Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has announced it will take steps to re-evaluate the
chemical. A widely used pesticide known to impact wildlife development
and, potentially, human health, NRDC's report pointed out that Atrazine
has contaminated watersheds and drinking water throughout much of the
United States. Today's announcement of a year-long review by the EPA
may be the first step towards revising the chemical’s registration and
availability in the United States, according to NRDC experts.

“We
don’t need gender-bending chemicals in our water,” said Mae Wu. “While
Atrazine’s makers like to talk about the pesticide’s long-running
history, we have learned a lot since it was introduced a half century
ago. Studies point to significant concerns about this chemical’s impact
on wildlife, babies, and developing children, reinforcing the fact that
this chemical has no place in our drinking water. Today’s action should
be the first in a series of necessary steps to fix this problem and
clean-up our water.”

Atrazine, a chemical banned in the
European Union, is the most commonly detected pesticide in U.S.
waters. It 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.

In late August, a
widely-publicized NRDC report revealed that all of the watersheds
monitored by EPA and 90% of the drinking water sampled in monitored
areas 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 a New York Times
investigative piece, an estimated 33 million Americans have been
exposed to Atrazine through their drinking water systems.

NRDC’s report, Poisoning the Well: How the EPA is Ignoring Atrazine Contamination in Surface and Drinking Water in the Central United States included detailed maps of affected areas and Google Earth applications.

Poisoning the Well
called for increased monitoring for Atrazine contamination and for the
product to be removed from the American marketplace. Today's action was
a necessary first step that could eventually lead to these important
outcomes.

Atrazine is currently regulated by the EPA.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), they have 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 NRDC
report was that this reliance on a "running annual average" allowed
levels of the Atrazine in drinking water to peak at extremely high
concentrations. This issue was one that was specifically noted in an
EPA conference call explaining the announcement process held this
morning.

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 effect to increase toxic effects of other chemical
co-contaminants in the environment.

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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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