Another Threat to Drinking Water and Your Health

Is your drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals? It depends upon how you look at it, what you consider a risk to your health, and where you live.

First off, most municipal water is essentially safe because it must be regularly tested and meet federal quality standards for a long list of chemicals. Nevertheless, reports of water supplies contaminated by harmful chemicals continue to surface. My article of June 8 described how a rocket fuel – perchlorate – had gotten into drinking water supplies in 35 states. Now news is emerging of another hormone disrupter in our water – atrazine, the most heavily used agricultural pesticide in the U.S.

In 1995, seventy million pounds of atrazine were applied to corn crops in the corn-belt states (Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and more). According to the National Resources Defense Council ( NRDC is a non profit organization), approximately 75 percent of stream water and 40 percent of groundwater in the agricultural areas tested by a U.S. Geological Survey contained atrazine; it was found in 80 percent of drinking water samples taken in153 public water systems! Should this be a serious concern?

How serious is this? The Beyond Pesticides organization rates atrazine as an endocrine (hormone) disrupter, a reproductive toxicant, and a neurotoxin. It has been linked to declines in sea turtles, sturgeons, and various amphibians. At concentrations of less than 1 ppb (part per billion)it has turned frogs in bizarre creatures bearing both male and female sex organs. EPA has determined that the annual average of atrazine must be no more than 3 ppb, but during spring rains and runoff, its concentration can be much, much higher. Because of such factors, the European Union in 2003 banned the use of atrazine. You may wonder why the U.S. EPA has not banned atrazine.

It is called corporate profits $$$ and influence. According to the Pesticide Action Network, atrazine’s maker, Syngenta, in 2003 lobbied EPA with over 50 closed-door meetings. A scientist from the University of South Florida reported that an industry-funded review misrepresented more than 50 studies  and included numerous inaccurate and misleading statements. The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report. “Chemical Industry Pressures EPA to Protect Herbicide, not Wildlife.” The article quotes the Washington Post in saying that a Washington lobbyist (Jim J. Tozzi) working for Syngenta petitioned EPA to reregister atrazine with no new restrictions. The Post also stated that “in closed meetings company representatives and EPA officials worked out a plan to avoid tighter restrictions.” NRDC has sued EPA over its approval of atrazine.

Perhaps you do not live in the corn belt. But you may live in an area of large scale cotton and soybean agriculture, which are also heavy users of pesticides (not necessarily atrazine), with corresponding runoff contamination of water bodies. It could be worth your time to check on the situation in you community.


About donlouis

The author has long had a keen interest in staying healthy and fit, and in doing whatever I can to keep the natural environment unpolluted and a healthy space for people and all animals. As a former Board Member of a municipal water district, I regularly had to deal with the issue of water quality. I first became aware of radiation hazards from toxic materials while working on uranium for nuclear reactors. During the 1960s I was tuned into the global hazard from Strontium 90 raining down from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. While working in the chemical industry in later years I became aware of the many forms of chemical contaminants entering the environment every day, and resolved to do something about it. I am able to make sense out of the voluminous descriptions of common toxic chemical because of my training in chemistry, with a Ph.D. degree and several decades of research and development work in the chemical industry. My training and experience enables me to present to readers reliable and current information on the topic of chemical hazards in the environment, and their threats to human health. All my life I have loved hiking and camping in nature. Skiing, river kayaking, and tennis have been my favorite physical activities. Nature photography is my artistic passion.
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