EPA Decision Limiting Atrazine Exposure Fails to Protect Public, Says NRDC

Group Says Agency Relied on Syngenta to Write the Rules; Tens of Thousands Will Continue to Drink Contaminated Water

Statement by Jennifer Sass, NRDC senior scientist

WASHINGTON (January 31, 2003) -- In its latest assessment of atrazine, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that drinking water that is 12 times more contaminated with the herbicide than allowed by law does not pose a health problem. Although more than 75 million pounds of atrazine are applied annually, and more than 1 million Americans drink water from systems that have exceeded EPA's drinking water standard, the agency will allow widespread use of atrazine to continue.

The agency also plans to allow the manufacturer of atrazine, Syngenta, to monitor contamination and implement drinking water limits. If the level of atrazine in drinking water exceeds a specific amount, EPA has given Syngenta the responsibility to conduct monitoring and develop a voluntary plan to lower the contamination level.

"We're flabbergasted," said Jennifer Sass, an NRDC senior scientist. "We've reviewed the science on atrazine, and it is clear that it is dangerous at levels the EPA says are harmless. And we're shocked that EPA would abdicate its responsibility to protect the public and allow the manufacturer to write the rules.

"The EPA also concluded that atrazine probably does not cause cancer in humans, despite the fact that numerous studies show a link between atrazine and cancer in both humans and animals. Even Syngenta acknowledges that workers at its atrazine plant have elevated levels of prostate cancer. The EPA is ignoring this data.

"Under a consent decree with NRDC, EPA must present this assessment to its scientific advisory panel for review this spring. The panel must assess the scientific data on the merits, and EPA must take action to protect Americans from exposure to this harmful chemical. This chemical is banned in several European countries. It should be banned here."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
New Studies Confirm Dangers of Atrazine, a Widely Used Agricultural Weed-Killer