(Beyond Pesticides, November 8, 2011) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a petition to ban the endocrine (hormone) disrupting herbicide atrazine on September 14, 2011, opening a 60-day comment period for the public to weigh-in on the issue that ends Friday. Tell EPA that because atrazine poses unacceptable risks to humans and wildlife, the agency should remove this hazardous pesticide from the market immediately. Submit comments directly to EPA’s atrazine petition docket by November 14, 2011 or sign your organization or business onto Beyond Pesticides’ comments by Friday, November 11.
According to its Federal Register notice, EPA received a petition from the non-profit organization Save the Frogs that includes over 10,000 signatures and select statements from the public, as well as two brief summaries of published literature, one by Jason Rohr, PhD (University of South Florida), and one by Tyrone Hayes, PhD (University of California, Berkeley), that is co-authored by 39 other scientists. In conjunction with the petition, EPA received nearly 50,000 emails from supporters of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council requesting that EPA “immediately take steps to phase out atrazine use in the United States,” stating that atrazine poses an unreasonable risk to the environment. The emails express concern for impacts on amphibians and other aquatic species as well as concern for potential risks to human health.
In its comments to EPA, Beyond Pesticides renews its call for the agency to ban atrazine and cites new research which adds to the body of evidence showing that this herbicide should never have been allowed on the market. Read an excerpt below:
Atrazine is a widely used herbicide whose use over the decades has led to widespread environmental contamination that threatens wildlife as well as public health. About 73-78 million pounds of atrazine are used in the U.S. annually, primarily on corn. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has routinely found atrazine in rivers and other water bodies at constant levels near or above EPA’s levels of concern. USGS researchers have also found atrazine to adversely affect aquatic organisms.
Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor with strong associations with birth defects, cancer, sex reversal and hermaphroditism in animals whose risk to environmental and human health is exacerbated by pervasive surface, ground and drinking water contamination. The European Union and countries across the globe have banned atrazine, however the agency continues to put U.S. residents and the environment in harm’s way with the continued use of atrazine.
In the past, Beyond Pesticides has commented to the agency that atrazine use in the U.S. should be halted. Beyond Pesticides still believes that atrazine poses unreasonable risks to humans and the environment and that risk mitigation measures proposed by EPA and the registrants fail to protect atrazine users and the general public. We hope the agency will take a look again at [studies cited in the comments] and reconsider the current registration on atrazine.
Beyond Pesticides comments highlight studies published in the scientific literature since EPA began reevaluating atrazine under its registration review process in 2009. This research includes a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, showing that prenatal exposure to atrazine is linked to small head circumference and fetal growth restriction; a study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology in 2010 finds male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals; and, a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that male frogs exposed to atrazine can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.
Because it has a tendency to persist in soils and move with water, atrazine washes into surface water and leaches into groundwater, and often finds its way into municipal drinking water. It is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams, and wells. Atrazine poses unreasonable risks to humans and wildlife at concentrations detected in the environment. Current and anticipated risk mitigation measures, including current best management practices, proposed by EPA and registrants, fail to protect. The agency must move quickly to conclude its review of atrazine and find an “unreasonable adverse effect” finding and cancel its registration.
The European Union banned atrazine in 2004 after repeated testing found the herbicide in drinking water supplies, and health officials were unable to find sufficient evidence that the chemical is safe. In much of Europe the burden of proof falls on the pesticide manufacturer to prove it is safe, unlike in the U.S. where EPA has assumed the burden of proving a pesticide does not meet acceptable risk standards before removing it through regulatory action.
For more information on atrazine, please see its profile in the Pesticide Gateway. Submit comments directly to EPA’s atrazine petition docket by Monday, November 14 or sign your organization or business onto Beyond Pesticides’ comments by Friday, November 11.