CREDO campaign manager Josh Kalla is organizing a meeting with US Congressman Matt Cartwright on Tuesday, July 30th, at 1:00 p.m. Meeting at Representative Cartwright’s office on the ninth floor of One South Third Street in Easton, Kalla and other CREDO members hope to win Cartwright’s co-sponsorship of HR 2044, which would ban the herbicide atrazine. Atrazine is a popular herbicide used by corn growers and produced by multinational firm Syngenta.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor, which means that it impairs the function of hormones in the body. One alarming research finding is that male frogs exposed to atrazine develop female sex characteristics. Atrazine may be even more harmful to human health when combined with other chemicals; researchers recently found an elevated risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in individuals drinking water contaminated with both atrazine and nitrate. Although atrazine has been found to contaminate 75% of stream water and 40% of ground water samples, the drinking water limit for atrazine set by the EPA is an annual average, which can mask potentially over-the-limit periods of high atrazine concentration due to seasonal variation in industrial herbicide use.
Atrazine concentrations in drinking water are highest in the Midwest and the South; however, anyone concerned about atrazine in tap water can use a water filter to remove it. The National Sanitation Foundation maintains a searchable database of filters to help consumers choose the one that removes contaminants of greatest concern to them. Certain bottled waters are also filtered before sale to the public. For example, Dasani (marketed by Coca-Cola) uses a reverse osmosis filter. Aquafina (marketed by Pepsi) uses reverse osmosis as well as ultraviolet disinfection and other filtering technologies.
In general, herbicide use is an arms race between chemical manufacturers and undesirable plants. Already, some weeds have become resistant to atrazine, which is unsurprising, given its widespread use. Although banning atrazine — as the European Union has done — would likely reduce or even end its future contamination of drinking water in the United States, it is also likely that chemical companies like Syngenta will eventually develop additional herbicides, whether to combat atrazine-resistant weeds or to combat an atrazine ban. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that powerful chemical companies will fail to secure government approval for at least some compounds harmful to human health, given these companies’ ability to meet secretly with government regulatory bodies.
Families concerned about drinking water contamination (by atrazine or any agricultural chemical) should use water filtration technologies to clean their water. Individuals who oppose the use of agricultural chemicals (including atrazine) have the options, first, of eschewing high-chemical-use products such as corn and, second, of purchasing organically grown produce when their budgets permit. Efforts to legislate the removal of chemicals from the food and water supply in the United States may be more successful in the long run if they take a holistic approach, rather than attempting to ban every harmful chemical, one at a time.