This common herbicide used in the US was banned by the EU – linked to cancer, birth defects and more
While glyphosate has been the primary target of global concern, there are still plenty of other harmful herbicides and pesticides on the market to be worried about. Atrazine, for example, is the second most popular herbicide in the United States, and it’s so toxic that it has been banned in Europe.
Over a decade ago, the European Union chose to ban atrazine. Naturally, lobbying efforts have ensured that the US did not follow in their footsteps. Instead, atrazine has become a normal facet of American society. It’s used on sugarcane, corn, pineapples, sorghum and macadamia nuts. It’s also used in evergreen forest regrowth efforts, and on evergreen tree farms. The herbicide is also used on our nation’s highways and railroads. So, it’s basically everywhere. And it’s an environmental hazard that’s causing deformities and other abnormalities in aquatic wildlife, and other adverse effects in humans.
The CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) itself notes that this chemical can persist in the soil for months – and in some cases, even years. The ATSDR also notes that atrazine takes an exceptionally long time to break down in water. The agency notes that any time the herbicide is washed away into rivers or streams it will stay there for “a long time.” That is why the chemical is often also present in the groundwater of agricultural areas.
When atrazine enters the air, it’s a whole different ball game. The ATSDR states that atrazine may be broken down when it encounters other elements in the air, but it can also adhere to other particles, like dust. When atrazine adheres to dust or other such particulates it does not break down – and it can travel great distances. The agency contends that atrazine is primarily removed from the air by rainfall. This all plays into how this herbicide has been found in rainwater more than 180 miles away from the nearest application area.
According to the ATSDR, atrazine typically breaks down into a number of different metabolites when it enters the human body. According to them, most of the metabolites will exit the body through your urine, but the agency does note that some will be absorbed by your internal organs and adipose tissue. In a bit of a contradiction, the ATSDR report goes on to to contend that atrazine does not accumulate in the body – despite noting that it can be absorbed by bodily tissues (which would tend to denote accumulation).
Atrazine is a known to disrupt the endocrine system, and has the potential to severely impair fertility. It has also caused physical deformities in animals. There is substantial evidence that the herbicide is capable of interfering with reproduction and development, and can cause cancer. Severe abnormalities have been seen in animals such as frogs. Male frogs in particular have been grievously harmed by this herbicide.
Reports have indicated that male frogs exhibit signs of severe hormone abnormalities. Failure of the voice box to develop correctly indicates that testosterone is not being produced properly. Male frogs and male smallmouth bass have been seen carrying and laying eggs, as if they were females. Atrazine turns males into females by inducing an enzyme called aromatase, which causes an over-production of estrogen. In fact, 85 percent of smallmouth bass in 19 different US sanctuaries have been found to be carrying eggs. If this is what exposure does to animals, what do you think it does to humans?
High amounts of atrazine in drinking water have been linked to a number of adverse effects in humans, such as birth defects and impaired development in young boys – including genital deformities. Exposure has also been linked to a number of different cancers, such as ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia and thyroid cancer – yet another reason why clean water.
In other words, atrazine is bad news. It has the potential to persist in the environment, and likely the human body, and it can do serious damage to people and wildlife alike. The EU took a stand against this harmful herbicide years ago. Why haven’t we?
Originally Posted: Vicki Batts