NRDC Sues EPA for Failing to Protect Endangered Wildlife from Herbicide

Group Says Atrazine Threatens Sea Turtles, Fish, Amphibians, and Mussels

WASHINGTON (August 20, 2003) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to protect endangered species in the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River, Missouri River, and other major Midwestern and Southern rivers from the herbicide atrazine, according to a lawsuit filed today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The group alleges that EPA is permitting the widespread use of atrazine even though the agency acknowledges the weed-killer might harm endangered species.

"The EPA knows that rivers and streams across the country are so contaminated with atrazine that sea turtles and other endangered species are at risk," said Aaron Colangelo, an NRDC staff attorney, "but the agency is sitting on its hands." NRDC is particularly concerned about the threat atrazine poses to endangered sea turtles in the Chesapeake Bay; salamanders in Austin, Texas; freshwater mussels in Alabama; and fish in the Midwest. The group called on EPA to ban atrazine in June 2002 after studies showed it poses a significant threat to public health (for more information, click here).

Atrazine, which has been banned in several European countries, is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. Between 60 million and 70 million pounds of atrazine are applied annually to fields, golf courses and lawns. EPA has found that there is widespread atrazine contamination in U.S. waterways, and has concluded that atrazine may harm endangered fish, reptiles, amphibians, mussels, and the aquatic plant life that provides habitat for endangered species. Atrazine also contaminates drinking water and may harm people as well. More than 1 million Americans drink from water supplies that are contaminated with atrazine at levels higher than EPA's drinking water standard. (For more information about atrazine in drinking water, see a June 2003 NRDC backgrounder).

"Atrazine has been shown to cause developmental and reproductive effects in wildlife," said Dr. Katherine Squibb, toxicology program director at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Atrazine exposure could jeopardize the survival of a number of endangered species."

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
Toxic Herbicide Atrazine Contaminating Water Supplies, While EPA Cuts Special Deal with Manufacturer
EPA Decision Limiting Atrazine Exposure Fails to Protect Public, Says NRDC
Study Finds Atrazine Causes Serious Sexual Side Effects in Frogs