Monday, August 24, 2009

Atrazine in the Water - Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas


Americans use 80 million pounds of atrazine on their crops and it is affecting more than crops, Hayes said. Even though the EPA has approved its use in the United States, he pointed out that it is not used in Europe or other places...

During his presentation, Hayes showed pictures of dissected deformed frogs, including one with two sets of testes and ovaries.

“This is not normal,” he said. “They should not have both testes and ovaries.”

Atrazine, he said, turns on an enzyme that changes testosterone into estrogen in male frogs. He also showed photos of male frogs growing eggs in their testes.

Frogs exposed to atrazine were also found to have suppressed immune systems and were unable to fight off basic infections or parasites.

“There’s a thought in science of don’t be an advocate,” Hayes said. “I’ve changed my mind.”

Pesticide is playing a harmful role in the lives of frogs, he said.

“When the environment’s health suffers, so will our physical health,” he said.
EPA Fails To Inform Public About Weed-Killer In Drinking Water (8/24/09)

One of the nation's most widely-used herbicides has been found to exceed federal safety limits in drinking water in four states, but water customers have not been told and the Environmental Protection Agency has not published the results.

Records that tracked the amount of the weed-killer atrazine in about 150 watersheds from 2003 through 2008 were obtained by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund under the Freedom of Information Act. An analysis found that yearly average levels of atrazine in drinking water violated the federal standard at least ten times in communities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, all states where farmers rely heavily on the herbicide.

In addition, more than 40 water systems in those states showed spikes in atrazine levels that normally would have triggered automatic notification of customers. In none of those cases were residents alerted.

In interviews, EPA officials did not dispute the data but said they do not consider atrazine a health hazard and said they did not believe the agency or state authorities had failed to properly inform the public. "We have concluded that atrazine does not cause adverse effects to humans or the environment," said Steve Bradbury, deputy office director of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs.

Officials at Syngenta, the Swiss company that manufactures atrazine, declined requests for interviews about the testing results. In a statement on its Web site, the company says that atrazine "poses no threat to the safety of our drinking water supplies. In 2008, none of the 122 Community Water Systems monitored in 10 states exceeded the federal standards set for atrazine in drinking water or raw water."...

Atrazine is sprayed on cornfields and other major crops during the summer months and can run off into rivers and streams that supply drinking water. It is also commonly used on golf courses.

Studies of atrazine's potential links to prostate and breast cancer have been inconclusive. Based on the recommendations of its scientific advisory panels in 2000 and 2003, the EPA has listed atrazine as "not likely" to be a carcinogen but does officially consider it to be a potential hormone disruptor - a risk factor explored by researchers testing animals.

In recent years atrazine has been the subject of intensive debate among scientists about its effects on the reproductive systems of frogs and other vertebrate animals. In some studies, male frogs that were exposed to high levels of atrazine have been documented to grow eggs.

In 2004, the European Union banned atrazine because it was consistently showing up in drinking water and health officials, aware of ongoing studies, said they could not find sufficient evidence the chemical was safe.

State regulators in the U.S. test their local water systems for atrazine a maximum of four times a year, under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. In 2003, the EPA again approved atrazine for use in the United States but it made some demands of Syngenta for the re-registration.

The EPA and Syngenta negotiated a deal for more extensive monitoring of about 150 vulnerable watersheds. Under that arrangement, the company pays for weekly monitoring and sends the results to the EPA, as well as to the local water companies and most state regulators...

The EPA plans to revisit its rules for atrazine in 2011. Presently the agency requires water systems to notify their customers if the quarterly state tests average higher than 3 parts per billion (ppb) annually. According to the EPA data obtained by the Investigative Fund, cities in four states -- Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas -- had yearly averages of atrazine violating that standard from 2003 to 2008.

In addition, more than 40 water systems in those states showed spikes of atrazine over 12 ppb - which if found in the state quarterly tests would have required the water system to notify the public within 30 days.

In none of those cases were residents notified of the high levels. In fact, the brochures in their water bills - reviewed for this report -- contained misleading numbers based on the state testing.

For example, based on the quarterly tests, residents of Mt. Olive, Ill., were told that the highest level of atrazine in their drinking water last year was 2 ppb. However, the EPA data shows a spike in June of 16.47 ppb. The same year, residents of McClure, Ohio, were told that the highest level of atrazine in their drinking water was 3.4 ppb. The EPA data shows a spike in June 2008 of more than ten times that amount -- 33.83 ppb.

Both of these cities' water utilities received the weekly EPA data directly from Syngenta, but did not report it. Legally, they didn't have to. The drinking water act only requires cities to report data collected by the state. State tests are performed infrequently, so they are vulnerable to missing the chemical spikes that consistently occur around the time the weed-killer is being applied. With weekly tests, such as those ordered by the EPA, it is all but impossible to miss these spikes.

Asked why the results of the weekly tests had not been published, the EPA's Bradbury said "no data is withheld from the public." Bradbury said the information has been posted on the agency's electronic public docket. In fact, the weekly test results are one of the only items on the docket that are not posted on the site.

Instead they are listed as available only through the Freedom of Information Act...

Schafer said he regularly receives atrazine testing data from Syngenta, along with the results from the state, but he doesn't think he is allowed to report it to the public.

That fits with the impression that Kansas state health officials gave Lloyd Littrell, director of utilities in Beloit, about the weekly test results from Syngenta.

"I kept track of those numbers for a couple of years, but I stopped," Littrell said. "The state of Kansas would not let us report the results. We had several conversations about it. They said it wasn't certified by the state or something. I stopped trying. If we can't use it, what's the point of me looking at it?"

According to the EPA data, atrazine spiked above 20 ppb in May 2008, but Beloit reported a high of 2 ppb to the public.

"It concerns me," Littrell said. "If it's an actual health hazard and they know and the EPA knows it's getting in water -- I can't believe they're not doing anything about it."

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