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Syngenta Settles Atrazine Suit

Swiss firm ends years of litigation with several midwestern community water systems

by Melody M. Bomgardner
June 4, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 23

Swiss crop protection firm Syngenta has reached a $105 million agreement with several midwestern community water systems to defray the cost of removing the herbicide atrazine from drinking water. Syngenta did not admit to any liability in the class-action settlement, however.

The water systems and their attorneys will share in the settlement, which is scheduled for court approval on Oct. 22. A joint statement from the parties explains that the agreement came about “in order to end the uncertainty and expense of almost eight years of litigation.” The statement continues, “Plaintiffs have acknowledged that they are not aware of any new scientific studies relating to atrazine not already in the public domain.”

However, environmental and public health advocates contend that recent studies show that exposure to high levels of atrazine is correlated with birth defects and reproductive problems in animals and humans. They point out that the herbicide is banned in the European Union.

Atrazine is a widely used, broad-spectrum triazine herbicide. It is used primarily on corn, sorghum, and sugarcane and is applied most heavily in the Midwest. Because of runoff, the herbicide is commonly detected in drinking water.

EPA requires water suppliers to ensure that atrazine in finished drinking water does not exceed a yearly average of 3 ppb or a 90-day average of 37.5 ppb. EPA data show that the amount of atrazine in untreated water spikes in the Midwest in May and June. In 2009, EPA began reviewing the research on the health effects of exposure to atrazine; it will use the evaluation in a 2013 review of atrazine.


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