9 Essential Facts That No-One Is Telling You About Atrazine

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9 Essential Facts That No-One Is Telling You About AtrazineGraphic @ HH&H. Photo © narongcp – fotolia.com

All the talk these days is about Roundup but there’s another herbicide that you really should learn about: Atrazine. Have you heard of it? Many haven’t. Here are some basic facts you should know.

1. Atrazine Has Been Banned In Europe For Over 10 Years

Atrazine is a herbicide used to prevent broadleaf weeds in crops such as maize (corn) and sugarcane. It is also used on turf, such as golf courses and residential lawns. It is the second most widely used herbicide in the USA, with sales at around $300 million a year. (Roundup is the most widely used).

Atrazine is also one of the most widely used herbicides in Australian agriculture – and so it is somewhat alarming to discover that it was banned in the European Union in 2004, when the EU found groundwater levels exceeding the limits set by regulators, and the manufacturer – Syngenta – could neither show that this could be prevented nor that these levels were safe. [1]

2. Atrazine Is The Most Commonly Detected Pesticide In Ground Water, Surface Water And Precipitation In The USA

In 2001, atrazine was reported as the most commonly detected pesticide contaminating drinking water in the United States. [1] A 2011 study declared Atrazine the most commonly detected pesticide contaminant of ground water, surface water, and precipitation. [2]

3. Atrazine Has Been Found To Be An Endocrine Disruptor And Has Been Found To Cause Demasculinization And Feminization Of Male Gonads Across Vertebrate Classes

Yes, you read that right. A 2011 study published in The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology reported atrazine as an endocrine disruptor that, among other effects, alters male reproductive tissues when animals are exposed during development. They reported that “Atrazine demasculinizes male gonads producing testicular lesions associated with reduced germ cell numbers in teleost fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, and induces partial and/or complete feminization in fish, amphibians, and reptiles.” [2] Note that numerous studies on this topic have been completed and the reviews often state that there is insufficient evidence to implicate atrazine in this regard.

4. Atrazine Has Been Found To Be A Neurotoxin By Recent Research

A 2015 study has stated that exposure to atrazine can cause cell death in dopaminergic neurons and proposed a mechanism for these neurodegenerative effects. [3]

5. Atrazine May Increase Cancer Risk

There is also evidence that links atrazine to cancer. A robust review of all available science on atrazine conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported numerous studies finding an increase in mammary gland tumors in female rats treated with atrazine from early life until adulthood. [4]

Further studies have proposed links to breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in adults, particularly in those occupationally exposed to atrazine [4]

6. Atrazine May Be Causing Amphibian Declines

A 2008 study in the prestigious Nature found that the presence of atrazine was the best predictor (out of more than 240 plausible candidates) of parasitic flatworms in the declining northern leopard frog Rana pipiens. [5] This is a very interesting and important study from one of the world’s leading scientific journals: It suggests that atrazine is an immunosuppressant – weakening the resistance of the creature to parasites.

This clearly shows how research is flawed that blames the parasites directly for the decline in the animal populations. Now, where have we seen this before? With the bees and the varroa mite! Could it be possible that the neoticotinoid insecticides are in fact responsible for damaging the resistance of the bees to these pests?

7. Atrazine Is A Persistent Contaminant That Can Take At Least 4 Years To Break Down In Soil

Atrazine remains in soil for a matter of months (although in some soils can persist to at least 4 years) and can leach from soil to groundwater; once in groundwater, it degrades slowly. [1]

8. The Manufacturer Has Already Been Sued But Still Denies All Wrongdoing

In 2012, Syngenta, the manufacturer of atrazine, was the defendant in a class-action lawsuit concerning the levels of atrazine in human water supplies. Syngenta agreed to pay $105 million to reimburse more than one thousand water systems in in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio for “the cost of filtering atrazine from drinking water”. The company denied all wrongdoing yet has been accused of manipulation by paying “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, hiring a detective agency to investigate the scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of a leading scientist critical of atrazine. [6]

9. The EPA Thinks Atrazine Is Fine

In 2006 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had stated that under the Food Quality Protection Act “the risks associated with the pesticide residues pose a reasonable certainty of no harm”, and in 2007, the EPA said that atrazine does not adversely affect amphibian sexual development and that no additional testing was warranted. EPA´s 2009 review concluded that “the agency’s scientific bases for its regulation of atrazine are robust and ensure prevention of exposure levels that could lead to reproductive effects in humans.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council has published a full report arguing that “The EPA Is Ignoring Atrazine Contamination in Surface and Drinking Water in the Central United States”. [4]

The EPA continues to classify atrazine as “not likely” to cause cancer in humans – however the NRDC has stated that this “ignores the recommendations of its scientific advisory panel that the EPA consider all the science, including whether hormonal effects in childhood or adolescence may have an impact on cancer occurrence in later years”. [4]

Atrazine is still in use in the USA, Australia, Asia and some other places. Around 80 million pounds of it are used in the USA each year, according to the EPA, with most of it being applied to corn in the Midwest. Around 75% of all U.S. corn is treated with atrazine, but atrazine is also used on golf courses, Christmas tree lots and public lands. [6]


[1] Atrazine – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrazine

[2] Demasculinization and feminization of male gonads by atrazine: consistent effects across vertebrate classes. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. (2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21419222

[3] Atrazine Causes Autophagy- and Apoptosis-Related Neurodegenerative Effects in Dopaminergic Neurons in the Rat Nigrostriatal Dopaminergic System. Int J Mol Sci. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26075868

[4] Poisoning The Well – How the EPA is Ignoring Atrazine Contamination in Surface and Drinking Water in the Central United States. NRDC (2009). http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/us/NRDC-Atrazine-report.pdf

[5] Agrochemicals increase trematode infections in a declining amphibian species. Nature (2008). http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7217/full/nature07281.html

[6] http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2013/atrazine

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