The European Commission (EC) excluded atrazine from a re-registration process in 2003 because the registrants did not supply sufficient water monitoring data.
Specifically, the commission found that the data was ‘insufficient to demonstrate that in large areas concentrations of the active substance and its breakdown products will not exceed 0.1 μg/l in groundwater. Moreover it cannot be assured that continued use in other areas will permit a satisfactory recovery of groundwater quality where concentrations already exceed 0.1 μg/l in groundwater.’ See the European Commission decision document (external site).
It is frequently asserted that atrazine has been banned in the EU. This is an incorrect interpretation of the EC decision. Atrazine has not been assessed and de-registered because of a human health or environmental concern. It is not on any EU ‘banned list’ and could theoretically be reregistered in the EU should the product registrant provide all the required data.
Even though countries in the European Union do not use atrazine, the product received a favorable safety review there:
“It is expected that the use of atrazine, consistent with good plant protection practice, will not have any harmful effects on human or animal health or any unacceptable effects on the environment.”
The European Union’s decision not to use atrazine was not science based, but directed by a general groundwater limit for all pesticides of 0.1 part per billion (ppb), regardless of toxicity.
In fact, the EU had recommended a health-based drinking water standard for atrazine that was 150 times higher than the 0.1 ppb arbitrary drinking water limit and five times higher than the US federal limit of 3 ppb atrazine.
Today, terbuthylazine remains an important herbicide in Europe, especially in corn and grape crops, and received a recent favorable science review during the EU’s re-registration process.