Chesapeake PSR

Time to revisit atrazine

Toxics and HealthTimothy WhitehouseComment

Atrazine, the second-most widely used pesticide in the United States, is an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to birth defects and cancer in humans and contamination of water supplies. Atrazine is used to prevent weeds in crops such as corn, and on golf courses and in residential lawns. Currently 70 million pounds of atrazine are used in the United States each year.

Atrazine has been found in drinking water supplies throughout the country. In 2009, a New York Times investigative report found that the “levels are particularly bad in farm states, including Maryland." As reported in the Baltimore Sun, the report found, "More than 69 percent of the state's population was exposed to atrazine, raking Maryland second. The actual number of Marylanders exposed was also among the highest.” 

In October 2003 the European Union (EU) banned atrazine because of ubiquitous and unpreventable water contamination. In 2012, Syngenta, the maker of Atrazine, agreed to pay $105 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in which water utilities in the U.S. Midwest claimed that atrazine contaminated water supplies. Maryland declined to participate in that lawsuit.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has maintained that the levels of atrazine found in U.S. waters is generally very safe,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Chesapeake PSR. “Many scientists disagree, however. Given EPA’s new preliminary risk assessment, Chesapeake PSR will be working with experts to better understand the extent of the problem in Maryland, and to decide whether a legislative response is warranted.”

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