J500 Media and the Environment

More Atrazine Please! by Sean T.
April 2, 2010, 2:39 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 10 | Tags: , , , , ,

Scrolling through the Lawrence Public Works Department’s water quality report I found one item frightening. Levels of atrazine in Lawrence are halfway to the legal limit. Some pollutants might not affect our health but I’ve found that atrazine is best avoided.

Atrazine is the most widely-used pesticide in the world. Source – plantersproducts.com

The EPA sets the Maximum Contamination Levels (MCLs) for pollutants in our drinking water. Ideally, the MCL is the most a person can daily consume of a pollutant without suffering “adverse health impacts.” The EPA can enforce the MCL legally if it is breached. Atrazine’s MCL is 3 parts per billion; the highest level found in Lawrence is 1.4 ppb.

Syngenta, the company that makes atrazine, denies any negative health effects. It says the benefits of atrazine are “clear and substantial.” It is the most widely-used pesticide in the world. The EPA’s reports have found no glaring dangers but the agency are in the midst of redoing test work.

Not all agree. Environmental Health Services reported that atrazine disrupts reproduction abilities in rats. The chemical lets off a stress signal that interrupts ovulation in females. When ovulation stops, reproduction can’t happen.

Now, think of all of the women that live near farms (or within range of farm run-off). If they are constantly barraged with atrazine  in their soil or drinking water the same stress signals will be activated. The signals are not as intense as the rats’ but enough to complicate reproduction.

As reproduction complications continue, cancer can develop. Prostate and breast cancer are cited as results of atrazine. Following the atrazine ban in the European Union, some Americans are taking steps to eradicate it from our agricultural diet.

Charlie Novogradac doesn’t use pesticides on his chestnut trees. As co-owner and operator of Chestnut Charlie’s, Novogradac refuses to use chemicals like atrazine. He says he won’t use them because he knows it would hurt his soil and because he doesn’t want to expose himself. Novogradac mentioned that tree crops like chestnuts require less pesticides. He thinks tree crops serve as an alternative to chemical-laden corn or soybeans.

Since atrazine has a carbon bond it persists in our environment. A new product could degrade active compounds in the soil. It’s an option for local government to consider if it wants to clean up the local water system. A local ban on atrazine might work but, because of it popularity the chances going statewide are not good.

In the meantime, getting a clean source of water is important. Buying filtered water or buying a new water filter that works against atrazine are essential steps. Hopefully all farmers will say no to atrazine soon, but until then it’s up to us to  stay out of its path.

Sean T.


4 Comments so far
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Interesting post. You say it’s “up to us” to get atrazine out of our local system of water. How do you think those who aren’t farmers could become involved with this? And how do you think those who are farmers could be more involved than just deciding not to use atrazine?

— Lauren Cunningham

Comment by Lauren Cunningham


I think providing information is a good way for farmers to combat atrazine. Most campaigns to ban atrazine started around farmers and their health.

Those who aren’t farmers can inform their neighbors and local government about its effects. People can also join a lawsuit against atrazine makers if they are affected. Talking to local farmers who use atrazine would help out as well.

Sean T.

Comment by Sean T.


In your opinion, do you think Atrazine is the greatest threat to water quality in America right now? Or just one of many? Do you think there is a way to solve many at one time… or do you think it will have to happen by banning one thing at a time? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

[…] More Atrazine Please! […]

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