Beyond Atrazine

Atrazine IS the big dog of herbicides (i.e., “week killers”) and corn crops are its biggest consumer. Beyond atrazine and other herbicides are insecticides and fungicides that are applied to crops, and hence, to the food we eat. But before going there, let’s consider a few more pieces of disturbing news about atrazine.

From the Environmental Health News (November 28, 2011) we learn more about possible hormonal effects of atrazine. Scientists studied women in Vermont – low levels of atrazine in their water – and in Illinois- higher levels of atrazine in the water. They found that women in Illinois were nearly five times more likely to report irregular menstrual periods than the Vermont women, and more than six times more likely to go more than six weeks between periods. The tap water in the Illinois communities had double the concentration of atrazine as that in the Vermont communities. Both concentrations were below the federal drinking water standards. How safe do you feel if your water meets federal standards?

Beyond the concerns for people, we should consider effects on other creatures of this planet. Much of the applied atrazine (and other pesticides) falls on the ground and during rains, runs off to pollute streams and ground waters. Atrazine is a recognized major threat to wildlife; it harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals.

Now to the other cast of hazardous chemicals that are sprayed on crops. Maybe you do not live near large fields of corn – but you may live near other extensive heavily sprayed crops. And even if you don’t live near any, you and I and everyone else eat food from these crops. The data below (from the CropLife Foundation) are Millions of Pounds of pesticides applied to crops in 1997.

CROP HERBICIDES INSECTRICIDES FUNGICIDES
Apples

2

15

8

Citrus

6

71

8

Cotton

33

20

1

Corn

206

20

0

Grapes

2

4

44

Potatoes

3

4

10

Rice

16

1

3

Soybeans

84

1

0

Tomatoes

1

1

10

Wheat

22

3

1

We see the disturbing news that about 85 million pounds are applied to a favorite food – citrus fruits – and 50 million pounds applied to grapes (no distinction between table and wine grapes). A word about soybeans and cotton. You may not eat much tofu, and you certainly do not eat cotton, so why care about these application figures? Because both crops are processed for big volume cooking oils, used in most packaged foods and breads.

You may ask “How much of the applied pesticides end up on or in the produce?” The Environmental Working Group published a list with such data; it can be downloaded from their website.

A bottom line is that the soil and waters of our country are being polluted with toxic chemicals, and our bodies are being contaminated by pesticides on and in our foods.

 

 

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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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