The Dangers of Atrazine
Atrazine is a pesticide that is used across America that can potentially have serious health consequences to animals and people. In spite of the fact that Atrazine is banned as a pesticide in other areas of the world, Atrazine remains available in the United States for such purposes despite growing awareness and protest from consumers.
What is Atrazine?
Essentially, Atrazine is a weed killer, used to prevent the invasion of weeds that inhibit the optimal growth of many crops, including sugar cane, sorghum, and corn. Outside of agriculture, Atrazine is frequently utilized to kill weeds on lawns as well as golf courses.
Atrazine has been used in the United States since it was first introduced in 1959. It is synthesized primarily by a chemical manufacturer in Switzerland known as Syngenta. Atrazine has been banned as a pesticide by the entire EU as of 2004, although countries began banning the substance in 1991. In spite of this, the United States still burns through over eighty million pounds of Atrazine annually.
Atrazine is Dangerous to the Animal Environment
Although Atrazine is highly effective as a weed killer, it also has a dangerous impact on animals in the local ecosystem, which likely includes humans as well. Atrazine is known as an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it has the ability to interfere with the normal and healthy function of the endocrine system, which controls hormone balance.
This is especially apparent in amphibians like frogs, that readily absorb chemicals directly through their skin. Atrazine exposure actually causes male frogs to change sexes! This metamorphosis occurs at environmental levels of 2.5 parts per billion, and perhaps even lower! The Environmental Protection Agency considers three parts per billion to be ecologically safe, but this directly goes against clinical and field evidence.
This issue is so significant, that scientists believe that exposure to Atrazine and similar chemicals is one of the primary reasons why there has been such a sharp decline in the global population of amphibians. Today, one in every three species of amphibian is at risk of extinction. These health issues are also apparent in reptile and mammal species, as Atrazine exposure has been linked to increased incidence of breast and prostate cancer in rodents, as well as reproductive issues in fish. Continuing study demonstrates that there are also potential issues for humans.
How May Atrazine be Dangerous to Humans?
As scientists move outside of the laboratory and ecological environment and into the human sphere, they find increasingly strong correlations between Atrazine and human reproductive health, especially as it pertains to human development in the womb.
Atrazine Exposure Causes Babies to Be Born Lighter
A study from the year 2009 shows that exposure to Atrazine from water has a direct impact on the birth weight of the child. Babies that are born underweight are at a significantly increased risk of a number of conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And this is just due to exposure to Atrazine from the water supply!
Atrazine is Prevalent in the American Water Supply
Because of this study and others, voices of concern are growing louder regarding the restriction or outright ban of Atrazine as an herbicide. Atrazine is highly prevalent in the water table after decades of extensive use. A study by the United States Geological Survey shows that forty percent of groundwater and seventy-five percent of flowing streams in agricultural zones are contaminated with Atrazine. Atrazine is even in most people's local drinking water! Researchers tested water from over 150 city water works and found that four out of every five were contaminated with Atrazine.
Atrazine Stays Active in the Environment Long After It Has Been Introduced
One thing that makes Atrazine worse than other similar herbicides is that it stays in the environment for an exceptionally long time. Atrazine was banned in France more than fifteen years ago, but it is still present at traceable levels even today. Atrazine is a global health hazard, because it gets absorbed with water into the clouds and actually falls back to earth. It is estimated that over 500,000 pounds of Atrazine enters the water cycle every year, leading to a greater and more pervasive effect upon both natural and artificial water supplies.
As recently as 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency considered Atrazine safe for agricultural use, and maintained that it did not propose any risks to humans. Many environmental lobbying groups, however, consider this decision a mistake, and strongly feel that weak monitoring and poor regulations have caused Atrazine to enter drinking water and the water table at exceptionally high levels, which they feel almost certainly puts some people at significant health risk.
Why is Atrazine So Popular?
There are a lot of reasons why agricultural specialists are so fond of Atrazine. For one, it's cheaper than many other herbicides. Also, it doesn't have a negative impact on the crops themselves, and increases the amount of fruits and vegetables that they have to sell. In the end, it saves them a lot of money. A two-decade research study showed that Atrazine increased harvested crops per acre by more than 5.5 bushels, which was more than a five percent increase.
This increase in yield provided an average increased profit per acre of more than $25, which was concluded to equal an increase in revenue of almost $1.4 billion per year to American farmers. An EPA study provided similar results, concluding that farmers earned $1.5 billion more attributable to Atrazine.
In Spite of Its Benefits, Atrazine Can Easily Be Replaced
Even though Atrazine provides tremendous benefits to farmers, it would not hurt bottom lines very much to get rid of Atrazine due to its potential health hazard. USDA studies suggest that if Atrazine use were made illegal in America, corn production would only drop by around 1.2%, and this would only lead to around a 2.3% drop in acres of corn planted nationwide.
There is also evidence that these studies are flawed in their conclusions, as, after Atrazine was banned in Germany and Italy, neither nation suffered in terms of revenue as a result of the ban. Because these two countries faced no issues resulting from the ban of Atrazine, there is no reason why Atrazine shouldn't be banned in the United States. Evidence even shows that Germany and Italy experienced larger national harvests without Atrazine.
The Risks Outweigh the Benefits: Ban Atrazine on American Crops
Most recent independent studies show that Atrazine most likely only increases harvest by between 1-2% at best. This, combined with the fact that the herbicide is highly detrimental to the environment while also imposing a threat upon human health as well, should lead most reasonable individuals to conclude that Atrazine should be banned in the United States like it is in Europe.