Over the past few years (and days), atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. and around the world, been called into question in the media. The thing is, since atrazine was first introduced 50 years ago, the EPA says that atrazine “is one of the most closely examined pesticides in the marketplace.”
As you may know, crop protection products are among the most heavily regulated and scrutinized products available. Every one sold or distributed in the United States undergoes a stringent safety review by the EPA. In fact, pesticides are subject to more safety testing than pharmaceuticals prior to human clinical trials.
Atrazine recently completed a rigorous, up-to-date safety evaluation by the EPA and was re-registered for use in agriculture. In 2006, the EPA looked at all of the triazine herbicides together — atrazine, simazine and propazine — and determined they pose "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other major identifiable subgroups of consumers."
While it’s true that extremely low levels of atrazine are occasionally found in some community water systems, its’ time we get this issue into perspective. In 2008, none of the 122 community water systems monitored in 10 states where atrazine is used most exceeded the federal standards set for atrazine in drinking water or raw water. The federal lifetime drinking water standard for atrazine is set at 3 parts-per-billion — a level containing a 1,000-fold safety factor. Put another way, a 150-pound adult could drink 21,000 gallons of water containing 3 ppb of atrazine every day for 70 years and still not reach levels shown to have no effects in lab studies. Plus, the best management practices growers now use near waterways have done much to protect water quality over the last 15 years.
Don’t forget that many products we use all the time – like bleach, antibiotics and even hand cleaners – can be considered toxic. But used in the proper way, according to the label, they are very beneficial. The same can be said for a time-tested herbicide like atrazine.