From Farm Futures:
The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a report that drinking water containing the herbicide atrazine could pose a greater public health risk than previously thought because regular municipal monitoring doesn’t detect frequent spikes in the chemical’s levels. Scientists with Syngenta, the main manufacturer of atrazine, called the NRDC report alarmist and said the spikes fall within limits that the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.
University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Specialist Bob Broz says because atrazine has been one of the longest used and effective herbicides, it has been under close scrutiny by the EPA for years.
“After years and years of tests and looking at it and saying, ‘Why is this product being used? What can we do with it? Are there other alternatives out here that are economically viable and still as effective a job?’,” Broz said. “Most of the research that has come back based on what we normally look at has shown that atrazine is a very safe product.”
Broz says EPA, regardless of what they see as the level that they think is dangerous, goes beyond that on the off chance that someone could have an adverse reaction and builds in a safety factor. In the case of atrazine, EPA adopted a federal lifetime drinking water standard at three parts-per-billion, a level containing a 1,000-fold safety factor.
“In most cases atrazine if used under label conditions works very effectively,” Broz said. “Now what we have learned is that different soil conditions or different rain conditions can play a role in how much atrazine we’re actually going to see runoff the field. The farmers don’t want this coming off the field either. It it’s not on the field and where we put it, it’s not going to be good for weed control and in that case it’s costing the farmer a lot more money.”
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