RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report found that spikes in the water levels of atrazine, a common herbicide banned throughout Europe (but still legal here in the U.S.) could pose a public health risk. The hormone-disrupting chemical is used extensively in corn and sugarcane farming, but research has linked environmentally relevant levels of the herbicide with suppressed immune systems, thyroid problems, aggression, cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, and sexual development issues, mainly, the feminization of males. "When you start altering developmental patterns, affecting hormone, and neurological and immune status, you're talking about setting up an organism for life-long health defects and behavioral changes," explains Warren Porter, PhD, professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
THE DETAILS: NRDC analyzed the results of surface water and drinking water monitoring required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) across the heavily farmed Midwest and southern states, and found that all the surface water displayed atrazine contamination. Watersheds in Indiana, Missouri, and Nebraska had the highest peak concentrations. Atrazine, which is manufactured primarily by Syngenta, was also found in more than 90 percent of the tested samples, taken from 139 drinking water systems. NRDC also says the EPA is ignoring the spikes that occur in the spring following atrazine application and again after summer rains.