EPA won't restrict use of weedkiller atrazine

Saturday, November 1, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it has decided not to impose new restrictions on the common weedkiller atrazine.

EPA said in a statement it "does not find any studies that would lead the agency to conclude that potential cancer risk is likely from exposure to atrazine."

The agency was required to review the health effects of atrazine under a court-approved agreement in 2001 with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. NRDC sued EPA in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in 1999, saying the agency hadn't met a deadline to review the safety for children of many high-risk pesticides including atrazine.

"The Bush administration's decision to leave this toxic weed-killer on the market despite widespread contamination of drinking water and streams across the country is political, not scientific," said Erik Olson, a senior attorney with NRDC.

NRDC said it learned during a morning conference call with EPA and chemical company representatives that the federal agency had struck a private deal with the manufacturers of atrazine.

EPA said it will require manufacturers for the next two years to monitor 40 of the 1,172 watersheds that EPA said were most at risk of being polluted by atrazine.

Most of that monitoring would be by Swiss-based Syngenta, the world's biggest agribusiness, whose company's North American headquarters is in Greensboro, N.C.

Atrazine can enter the food chain through rainwater, snow runoff and groundwater after it is sprayed onto crops and grass. EPA rules permit up to 3 parts per billion of atrazine in drinking water. One part per billion is the equivalent of one drop of water in a 10,000 gallon swimming pool.

Some male frogs exposed to atrazine can develop either multiple sex organs or both male and female organs because the pesticide causes cell production of the hormone-converting enzyme aromatase, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley said last year.

On the Net:

EPA: http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/reregistration/atrazine

NRDC: http://www.nrdc.org/health/pesticides/natrazine.asp

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