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Daily News Blog

22
Sep

EPA Reapproves Toxic Weedkiller Atrazine with Fewer Protections for Children’s Health

(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2020) Use of the highly hazardous, endocrine disrupting weed killer atrazine is likely to expand following a decision made earlier this month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the guise of “regulatory certainty,” the agency is reapproving use of this notorious herbicide, as well as its cousins simazine and propazine in the triazine family of chemicals, with fewer safeguards for public health, particularly young children. Advocates are incensed by the decision and vow to continue to put pressure on the agency. “Use of this extremely dangerous pesticide should be banned, not expanded,” Nathan Donley, PhD, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity said in a press release. “This disgusting decision directly endangers the health of millions of Americans.” Beyond Pesticides has long argued against the continued use of the triazine herbicides, which includes atrazine.

Triazines are well known to interfere with the body’s endocrine, or hormonal system. Disruptions within this delicately balanced process in the body can result in a range of ill health effects, including cancer, reproductive dysfunction, and developmental harm. These weedkillers interfere with the pituitary gland’s release of luteinizing hormones, which regulate the function of female ovaries and male gonads. In comments written by Beyond Pesticides to EPA, the organization notes, “Of the numerous adverse effects associated with this disruption, the two that appear to be the most sensitive and occur after the shortest duration (4 days) of exposure are the disruption of the ovarian cycles and the delays in puberty onset.”

Despite the serious concerns atrazine poses to young children, the agency brushed these issues aside. EPA maintains that because it has all the studies minimally required under law, it could remove uncertainty factors established to safeguard children’s health. Yet the agency ignored epidemiological literature that raises concerns and uncertainty around atrazine’s association with birth defects, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and other abnormalities.

Minor, nearly insignificant changes to triazine product labels finalized by EPA’s decision are outweighed by a risk analysis framework that is not only fundamentally flawed, but also subject to political interference on behalf of the pesticide industry.

The agency’s decision to reregister atrazine comes as it is already under fire for recent actions taken to protect the weed killer’s primary manufacturer, Syngenta-ChemChina. Earlier this year, using the Covid-19 crisis justification, the Administration provided the multinational company a waiver from a requirement that it monitor Midwestern waterways for atrazine contamination.

In a press release announcing the decision, EPA Administrator Wheeler was joined by representatives from the Missouri Farm Bureau, as well as the head of the Triazine Network, a chemical industry group dedicated to defending these toxic herbicides. “The benefits of atrazine in agriculture are high, so these new protections give our nation’s farmers more clarity and certainty concerning proper use,” Administrator Wheeler said.

According to research published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, banning atrazine would provide an economic benefit to farmers. “The winners,” the authors  conclude, “in an atrazine free future would include farm worker, farmers and their families, and others who are exposed to atrazine either directly from field uses or indirectly from contaminated tap water along with natural ecosystem that are currently damaged by atrazine.” Numerous other countries, including the European Union as far back as 2004, have banned atrazine and eliminated use without any damage to the farming economy.

The accumulated evidence inevitably brings many proponents of pesticide reform to the conclusion that the Trump EPA, under Administrator Andrew Wheeler, is willing to sacrifice American’s health for the profits corporate donors; not for farmers, or an ideological desire to “reduce regulatory burdens,” as one lawmaker put it.

In light of an EPA woefully captured by the industry it is charged with regulating, Beyond Pesticides encourages advocates continue to put pressure on every level of government. EPA and the agrichemical industry must not think that those fighting for a better future will give up. Over 4,000 individuals signed on to Beyond Pesticides’ petition urging EPA to ban atrazine. In light of the agency’s failure to protect the public, work to restrict use at the state and local level. But don’t limit your advocacy to one class of chemical – promote organic farming and land care, which eliminates atrazine as well as all other highly toxic pesticides.

For more information on the specific dangers of atrazine poses to our health and the environment, watch the keynote presentation from distinguished professor Tyrone Hayes, PhD of University California, Berkeley, at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Irvine, CA. Dr. Hayes one of the world’s foremost experts on atrazine, has been the subject of incessant attacks Syngenta-Chemchina. If you’re interested in supporting the research of scientists like Dr. Hayes, reach out to Beyond Pesticides about contributing to the Fund for Independent Science.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity press releaseEPA press release.

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