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Environment

Atrazine Spikes Raise Concern

by Britt E. Erickson
August 31, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 35

EPA is underestimating the risks of the herbicide atrazine in drinking water because the agency ignores seasonal spikes in concentrations and only looks at yearly averages to determine whether the legal limit of 3 ppb has been exceeded, claims a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The environmental group obtained data from EPA showing that 54 out of 139 (39%) drinking water systems had one-time peak atrazine levels above 3 ppb. The highest concentration was 39.69 ppb in Evansville, Ill. In the U.S., 60 million to 80 million lb of atrazine is applied annually to fields, primarily on corn, according to the report. Studies have linked the chemical to birth defects and reproductive problems, but EPA and Syngenta, the primary maker of atrazine, say those studies are inconclusive and stand behind atrazine’s safety.

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