Updated Groundbreaking Report Shows U.S. Drinking Water and Watersheds Still Widely Contaminated by Hormone Disrupting Pesticide, Atrazine

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Josh Mogerman, 312-651-7909

Updated Groundbreaking Report Shows U.S. Drinking Water and Watersheds Still Widely Contaminated by Hormone Disrupting Pesticide, Atrazine

New Water Data Reveals Broad Contamination Missed by EPA Monitoring

CHICAGO, Illinois - A widely
used pesticide known to impact wildlife development and, potentially,
human health continues to contaminate watersheds and drinking water
throughout much of the United States, according to a new report released
today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“Sadly, new data doesn’t point to new results -- atrazine can
be found everywhere we look,” said Jennifer Sass, PhD, NRDC Senior
Scientist and an author of the report.“

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. Last year, NRDC’s
Poisoning the Well report shined a bright light on widespread
contamination of American drinking water by the pesticide atrazine.

An EPA investigation of the chemical kicked off soon after
the report was released and magnified by prominent media coverage, with
expert meetings being held all last week in DC. The report authors today
released Still Poisoning
the Well
, which uses updated data and new scientific research to
show that the vexing problem continues throughout the Midwest and
southern United States.

Atrazine season is here, and while it is great to see the
U.S. EPA revisiting the registration of this pesticide, until they
change monitoring policy high concentrations in drinking water will
continue to be ignored,” said Sass. 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.”

The report reveals that all of the watersheds monitored by
EPA and 80% of the drinking water sampled tested positive for atrazine.
Contamination was most severe in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri,
Kansas 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 continues to be shocking,” said
Mae Wu, an attorney in NRDC's Health and Environment program focused on
the regulation of pesticides, toxins and drinking water. “It has been
found everywhere that regulators have looked for it. Given the troubling
questions that continue to be raised by independent scientists, we
continue to believe that this dangerous weed killer needs to come off
the market so that we can keep it out of our drinking water.”

“People living in contaminated areas need to be made aware,
so they can use filters to protect themselves,” said Sass. 

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 Freedom of Information Act requests. The report 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. 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. A study in Indiana showed a
significant correlation between atrazine in tap water and low birth
weight.

Report authors Mae
Wu
and Jennifer
Sass
have new posts on NRDC’s Switchboard blog with additional
evaluation of the report’s findings.

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 1.3 million
members and online activists, served from offices in New York,
Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.
###

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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