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Daily News Blog

15
Jun

Propazine Cancelled by EPA—Advocates Urge Agency to Finish the Job by Banning Atrazine and Simazine

(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2021) The endocrine disrupting herbicide propazine (in the triazine family of frog-deforming endocrine disruptors) is set for cancellation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a Federal Register notice published last week. The move would eliminate use of the hazardous herbicide by the end of 2022. While health and environmental advocates are pleased with the agency’s move, they say it is critical that all pesticides in the triazine class, including atrazine and simazine, also be eliminated from use.

In November 2020, Beyond Pesticides and allied environmental groups launched a lawsuit against EPA for its intent to reregister the triazine family of chemicals. The agency’s interim approval of the herbicides, conducted under the Trump administration, eliminates important safeguards for children’s health and a monitoring programs intended to protect groundwater from contamination. As is typical with EPA, the agency merely proposed minor label changes in attempts to avert risks identified in its registration review. According to a release from EPA, it made the decision not out of concerns relating to human health and environmental protection, but in order to provide “regulatory certainty” for farmers and local officials.

In March 2021, the Biden administration requested a stay on the atrazine lawsuit brought by environmental groups, as it indicated it would review the Trump administration’s actions on the chemicals. “It is possible that, in response to this review, EPA may undertake actions that could resolve some or all of the issues in this case,” EPA said in its motion to stay, Progressive Farmer reports.

If propazine’s cancellation is the extent of the Biden administration’s corrective actions after the Trump administration’s complete abdication of responsibility to human health and environmental protection, then it is not enough, say advocates. With greenhouse uses already in the process of cancellation, propazine’s remaining use is on sorghum. Although a hefty 200,000 lbs. of propazine are used each year, focused mainly in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, this amount pales in comparison to the over 70 million lbs. of atrazine used throughout the United States.

Under an Endangered Species Act review, initiated by EPA only after a lawsuit from health and environmental groups, the triazine chemicals were found adversely effect a range of species. Propazine was found to harm 64 endangered species, while simazine and atrazine were both likely to harm over 50% of all endangered species an 40% of their critical habitats.

EPA has long known about triazine’s threats to wildlife, including its ability to chemically castrate male frogs. However, the agency has consistently defended the chemical, and sat by while independent researchers like Tyrone Hayes, PhD, who conducted seminal research on atrazine’s endocrine disrupting properties, are pilloried by chemical industry propaganda. In a Critical Perspectives piece published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry last month, Jason Rohr, PhD, provides an in-depth investigation of the atrazine controversy.

“I argue that the atrazine controversy must be more than just a true story of cover-ups, bias, and vengeance,” he writes in the piece. “It must be used as an example of how manufacturing uncertainty and bending science can be exploited to delay undesired regulatory decisions and how greed and conflicts of interest—situations where personal or organizational considerations have compromised or biased professional judgment and objectivity—can affect environmental and public health and erode trust in the discipline of toxicology, science in general, and the honorable functioning of societies.”

The triazine class of chemicals also pose significant threats to human health, and are particularly concerning in the context of the range of chemicals one may be exposed to in today’s world. As Dr. Hayes noted a recent presentation at Beyond Pesticides’ National Pesticide Forum, “Children in utero may be exposed to over 300 synthetic chemicals before they leave the womb… I would argue that a human fetus trapped in contaminated amniotic fluid is no different than one of my tadpoles trapped in a contaminated pond.”  

Atrazine has been linked to a range of adverse birth outcomes, including smaller body sizes, slower growth rates, and certain deformities like choanal atresia (where nasal passages are blocked at birth), and hypospadias (where the opening of a male’s urethra is not located at the tip of the penis).

While industry consistently lines up local Congressmembers, former EPA officials, and agrichemical lobbyists to pressure EPA to keep triazines in the market, there is no evidence that the herbicides benefit the farmers these officials claim to represent. 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 research concludes, “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.” 

During the Obama Administration, health and environmental advocates were on the defensive with propazine. After glyphosate-resistant crops predictably invaded genetically engineered cotton fields in Texas, growers requested propazine use on over 3 million acres of farm fields. Although EPA determined Texan farmers met the criteria for an emergency, a decision Beyond Pesticides disagreed with, the agency did find that groundwater risks from the proposed propazine use would be too risky.

Thus, while advocates remain hopeful and determined to pressure the Biden administration to cancel all triazines chemicals, eliminating propazine is a step in the right direction.

Watch for a Beyond Pesticides “Action of the Week” in the coming week requesting that the Biden administration fulfill its statutory duty and stop use of the triazine family of chemicals, including atrazine, as European nations have done since 2004. For more information on the dangers of atrazine and its chemical cousins, read Beyond Pesticides comments to EPA, and watch Dr. Tyrone Hayes presentations from former National Pesticide Forum events on Youtube. Attend the fourth and concluding day of the 38th National Pesticide Forum, Cultivating Community Health, and learn from advocates in local communities. Register now for the June 15 session.

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

Source: EPA, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Center for Biological Diversity, Progressive Farmer DTN

 

 

 

 

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