Sunday, February 5, 2012

Toxicologist Responds to Atrazine's Critics

I recently attended a seminar with Tim Pastoor, a toxicologist from Syngenta and a leading expert on atrazine (also simazine and propazine), a popular farm herbicide used to control weeds in corn and sorghum. This was particularly interesting to me, having spent many days as a young farm-hand spraying atrazine on row-crop acres.

Atrazine has come under fire in recent years from environmental groups, who have lobbied the EPA to restrict atrazine’s usage, claiming it is harmful to humans and amphibians and has led to groundwater and surface water pollution. Dr. Pastoor knows these complaints well, but says the science does not back them up:
These claims are baseless and wrong. The EPA just completed a 12-year evaluation of the corn herbicide atrazine in 2006 and concluded that it can be reregistered for use. The EPA's painstakingly detailed review of more than 6,000 scientific studies led it to state very clearly that atrazine poses "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other ... consumers." 
One would think such a thorough review with this much data and with so many qualified scientists examining each aspect of atrazine's safety would be enough. But not for the agenda-driven activist organizations that just don't like EPA's conclusions. Political pressure by these groups has pushed the EPA to announce yet another "comprehensive" reevaluation of atrazine.
Dr. Pastoor believes another reevaluation of atrazine is unnecessary. He explained that atrazine has been safely used for over 50 years and in more than 60 countries. Read more about Dr. Pastoor's comments in the Winona Daily News:  Atrazine is Proven Safe, Despite Critics' Assertions.

Still, atrazine has its critics. A Google search will pull up hundreds of articles cautioning people to be wary of atrazine in their drinking water and the negative health effects. The New York Times, for example, published a story: Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass, where it discussed both sides of the controversy surrounding atrazine.

There is a lot of information available for interested persons.  If you want to know more, I suggest starting with EPA’s regulatory webpage on atrazine, which addresses some of the claims that the herbicide is harmful to humans and amphibians.  The atrazine website also responds to the various reports and studies that claim that the herbicide is unsafe.

Syngenta is currently fighting a class-action lawsuit involving claims by homeowners in Holiday Shores, Illinois, that atrazine contaminated their water. Stay tuned for more posts about atrazine and the Holiday Shores litigation in the future.

1 comment:

  1. It appears that this court case is already creating news for unorthodox tactics by activists and litigators alike.


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