(Beyond Pesticides, September 16, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this week that it is seeking public comments on a petition to ban atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. The call for comments was prompted by a petition submitted earlier this year by the group SAVE THE FROGS!, to ban the highly toxic chemical. The group, along its allies, delivered over 60,000 petition signatures and emails to EPA requesting an immediate ban.
The group organized a rally at the steps of the EPA’s headquarters in Washington, DC back in April to raise awareness of the disappearance of amphibians and call for a federal ban on atrazine on the occasion of the international Save The Frogs Day. Amphibian populations worldwide have been declining at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
“Now that we have the EPA’s attention, we are a large step closer towards protecting our food supply, our drinking water and our wildlife from this known endocrine-disruptor,” says Kerry Kriger, PhD, founder and executive director of SAVE THE FROGS! “However, only a few percent of Americans have ever heard of atrazine, so raising awareness of the issue is critical if we are to overcome the lobbying power of the billion-dollar agro-chemical giants.” Atrazine is produced by Syngenta, the world’s largest pesticide company, which reported over $11 billion in revenues in 2010.
Atrazine has been under serious scrutiny over the past several years as an abundance of scientific literature on its harmful effects have been published by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of South Florida. It is a widespread contaminant in drinking water and is linked to various birth defects, endocrine disruption, and cancer, even at concentrations below EPA standards. Although it has been excluded from re-registration in the European Union since 2004 because it is found above allowable thresholds in groundwater, it is still currently one of the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S. and throughout the world.
The herbicide is used to control broad leaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and residential lawns. It is used extensively for broad leaf weed control in corn. The herbicide does not cling to soil particles, but washes into surface water or leaches into groundwater, and then finds its way into municipal drinking water. It has been linked to a myriad of health problems in humans including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer.
As the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine is applied in the U.S. annually. It has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, making it a common water contaminant. Atrazine is a major threat to wildlife. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that the volatilization of atrazine, known to contaminate surface and ground water, consistently results in herbicide movement off the target site that exceeds nontarget field runoff, varying widely depending upon weather conditions. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.
Take Action: Tell EPA to ban the use and production of the dangerous herbicide atrazine, as Europe has already done. EPA is accepting public comments on the petition to ban atrazine through November 14, 2011. More information on submitting comments can be found on the Federal Register.
For more information on the petition and how to get involved, visit SAVE THE FROGS!