I love summer and the watermelon, tomatoes, too many cucumbers, and lemonade that are part of my diet. But unfortunately along with the lemon and sugar, that lemonade I love probably contains some Atrazine.
Atrazine is a widely used herbicide. Farmers apply over 75 million pounds in the US each year, a lot of it applied to corn in the Midwest. While our US farmers are applying all this Atrazine, it is banned in Europe and has never been allowed in Switzerland, the headquarters of Syngenta, the company that developed it. Atrazine is associated with a number of health problems, including breast cancer in humans. Syngenta BTW now sells a drug to treat breast cancer. How’s that for a brilliant business strategy?
So getting back to the lemonade…In Kansas City our drinking water comes from the Missouri River. During the growing season the Muddy Missouri carries Atrazine-spiked run-off from the surrounding fields. In 2012 KCMO Water Services reported levels of Atrazine in our drinking water ranging from non-detectable to 2.47 PPB (parts per billion) with an average reading of .31 PPB. The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level for drinking water at 3 PPB. When the test level exceeds 3 PPB, water services (e.g., our tax dollars) has to process the water further to remove Atrazine to a level below 3 PPB.
3 PPB is a tiny, tiny amount. But Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are a class of chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects. And they can cause these irreversible effects in micro-dosage levels. New studies link low-level exposure to birth defects, delayed puberty and infertility in humans — all of which are on the rise.
Some of the best research on Atrazine is done by Dr. Tyrone Hayes.* His research shows that frogs living in water with Atrazine concentrations <1 PPB produce tadpoles that do not all successfully turn into adults. And of those that do, some of the male frogs will be chemically castrated. This chemical castration is happening at a level that is 1/3 the EPA standard for our drinking water.
While it is almost impossible to avoid Atrazine (it’s even in our rain water!), you can reduce your exposure by filtering your drinking water with an activated carbon filter. Avoid bottled water for a number of reasons including the fact that it is often simply bottled tap water and as a consumer product it is regulated less than tap water. Secondly, through Friday the 23rd of this month the EPA is taking public comments as they consider a ban of Atrazine. Please take the time to sign the petition and send the link or this blog on to your friends and family. If you need a little more motivation to sign, you can read the Atrazine report from the Pesticide Action Network, that includes information on the significant effort Syngenta has expended to block past regulation of Atrazine.
Remember to sign the petition now so that your name counts before the Friday deadline. We really deserve better from our Environmental PROTECTION Agency.
*If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Hayes’ research, you can watch a short video of Dr. Hayes explaining the problems with Atrazine and read this summary of a March 2013 speech including Atrazine’s association with low testosterone and sperm counts in humans and the similarities between frogs and humans.