Today's Toxin: Atrazine, the Weed Killer in Your Water

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Atrazine Hot Spots in the New York Times. Use is greatest in corn growing areas.

The weed killer Atrazine is commonly used by farmers, on golf courses and those beautiful green lawns that people love so much. Most of it is made by the Swiss company Syngenta, which claims it is safe for Americans; somehow Europeans are different because the stuff is banned there and it can't say the same thing at home. According to the New York Times, it is yet another gender-bender endocrine disruptor:

new research suggests that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought. Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems.

The Times also has found that levels of the stuff spike in summer to extremely high levels, which makes sense as Americans put more on their lawns. The Times calls it " just one example of what critics say are regulatory weaknesses in the protections of America’s drinking water." Elizabeth Royte of Bottlemania fame calls it "Another gift to the bottled water industry." She writes in Huffington Post:

I predict that learning more about low-dose effects of ubiquitous chemicals (perchlorate, MTBE, trichloroethane, perfluorochemicals -- all of which have been found in municipal water supplies) will give even committed tap-water drinkers pause. The Times says, "Sometimes, the only way to avoid atrazine during summer months, when concentrations tend to rise as cropland is sprayed, is by forgoing tap water and relying on bottled water or using a home filtration system." If I were living in farm country and pregnant, nursing, or the mother of a young child, I'd certainly get the best filter I could afford and be sure to use it during spring runoff.

Royte concludes:

What can you do? Demand to know what's in your water, do independent testing at the tap, and contact your utility and elected representatives if you don't like what you've found. Then get yourself a good filter and a reusable bottle and reach out to your local watershed protection group to offer your support.

The NRDC also suggests that Atrazine can be filtered out with a home filter.
NRDC recommends that consumers concerned about atrazine contamination in their water use a simple and economical household water filter, such as one that fits on the tap. Consumers should make sure that the filter they choose is certified by NSF International to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard 53 for VOC (volatile organic compounds) reduction and therefore capable of significantly reducing many health-related contaminants, including atrazine and other pesticides

Another step people might take is to demand that the stuff be banned; In Canada, atrazine use had dropped in half in recent years as municipalities brought in laws banning cosmetic use of chemicals on lawns. (although the chart above shows that it is still bad in the corn belt and is a threat to our Great Lakes water supply) Canadians have a lot more dandelions but but a lot less weed killer in their water, not a bad tradeoff to make.