Atrazine, banned in Europe but freely used by agriculture in the US, has become notorious as the pesticide that causes frogs to change genders.
Exposed to Atrazine, even in tiny amounts, male frogs are feminized, proving that atrazine is capable of disrupting the endocrine system of amphibians. No wonder researchers are concerned about its possible effects on the human body and reproductive system. Already studies have linked Atrazine to reduced human fertility, increased birth defects and an elevated risk of breast and prostate cancer.
And the latest research by the EPA brings no consolation. The agencies survey of watersheds across the Midwest and in Texas and Louisiana found several sites with levels of Atrazine routinely registering above the safe believed level of 10 parts per billion.
Atrazine, 80 million pounds of which are dumped on US crop fields every year, continues to be the pesticide most commonly found in US groundwater, says Kerry Kriger, the professor behind Save the Frogs, a Berkeley, California-based advocacy.
Kriger is sounding the alarm about these findings, which the EPA will use as it assesses whether to continue to allow Atrazine use. No EPA action is expected to happen until 2015, and no decision until 2016, but Kriger wants the public to press for quicker action.
"If you live in America, you are drinking and eating Atrazine," he wrote to followers this month. "And if you think your government is working hard to protect you from Atrazine, you are wrong!"
A bit more about the findings of the "Atrazine Ecological Monitoring Program": The EPA determined that 33 sites where it sampled the water exceeded the safe threshold for Atrazine when levels were averaged over one month's time (4 of 8 sites in Iowa…..3 of 4 in Louisiana…..19 of 33 in Missouri…..5 of 11 in Nebraska….2 of 4 in Texas).
In Louisiana, Missouri and Nebraska, some of the concentrations of Atrazine averaged above 20 ppb and two sites in Nebraska registered about 30 ppb. Single day levels reached well over 100 up to 193 ppb in several locations across the states tested.
The monitoring report also found that levels had dropped in some areas and attributed that to crop rotations put in place to mitigate pesticide runoff.
Kriger called the data "extremely alarming," noting that over 25% of the 938 water samples contained over 3 parts per billion [his threshold for safety because frogs have been shown to be affected at that level].
He’s calling for a ban of Atrazine because it has been well-documented to harm the reproductive systems of wildlife, specifically "every vertebrate on which it's been tested" and turns up in tap water at harmful concentrations.
In addition, Kriger said banning Atrazine is unlikely to cause economic harm to American farmers, because the ban in Europe has not been economically damaging.
Kriger also has accused the EPA of dragging its feet by relying on just one study assuring the safety of Atrazine — the one done by the Syngenta, the maker of Atrazine — to bolster its continued approval of the chemical. Yet dozens of independent studies show the harmful effects of the pesticide.