Atrazine is one of the most common herbicides (weed-killer) widely used to control tough weeds on food crops like corn, and is also used on golf courses and lawns. It’s chemical formula is C8H14ClN5.
In its pure state it is a odourless white crystalline solid. It is slightly soluble. Under regular temperatures and pressures it is stable, but it can burn when exposed to heat or flame (Cornell University, 1993).
For many years farmers have depended on atrazine for their weeds because of its price and effectiveness against other herbicides. It can spread onto crops as a liquid, powder, or in granular form. For it to be active, atrazine has to be dissolved in water and go through the plants roots (Toxic Substances, 2003). From there it leaves the weed and stops the process of photosynthesis.
In the most corn growing states in the US such as Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, Nebraska, and Indiana around 80 million pounds of atrazine are used annually (Hayes, n.d).Atrazine in Drinking Water One of the major sources of atrazine found in drinking water is from runoff from the herbicide used on crops.
When it gets washed from the soil by rainfall, it can enter surrounding areas, such as lakes, streams, or other bodies of water. Levels of atrazine found in drinking water depend on regions where the contaminant is used extensively, therefore areas that use it the most have potential for high amounts of runoff. Atrazine contamination has been reported in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan (Vuchnich & Shochat, 2014). Since 2004, Atrazine was officially banned in the European Union and single countries in Europe banned it as early as 1991, citing it as a major contributor to water contamination.
Being aware of the potential dangers this could cause to people from their drinking water (it is possibly carcinogenic to humans), Health Canada set an acceptable limit in drinking water at 5 parts per billion (Ehlich, 2016). Health Canada also recently decided in March not to ban the contaminant. Environmental Effects Despite atrazine being an easy solution to control weeds and increase yields, it is a real threat for other species. Although most animals are not dangerously affected by low amounts, fish and amphibians are the most vulnerable.
A number of research shows that atrazine exposure can negatively impact many species (Oram, n.d). It causes severe health effects such as immunosuppression, (reduced strength of the immune system) hermaphroditism; In 2002, a study discovered that male tadpoles that were exposed to atrazine caused them to turn into hermaphrodites–frogs that have both male and female sexual characteristics as low as 2.5 parts per billion (Sanders, 2010). Effects on Human Health Atrazine is slightly toxic to humans and other animals. It can be absorbed into the bloodstream through oral, dermal and inhalation exposure.
For scientists see how certain chemicals are harmful to humans, animal testing may be necessary. In a 2009 study, there was a link between prenatal atrazine exposure from the drinking water and reduced body weight in newborns. Low birth weight is related with increased chance of sickness in babies and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes (West, 2017).Studies have shown that atrazine has been proven to cause blood hormone levels changes in animals that affected the ability for them to reproduce. A few of the particular effects saw in animals are not prone to happen to people because of the biological differences amongst people and these kinds of animals.
Nonetheless, atrazine may alter the human reproductive system in a different way. Atrazine also caused kidney, liver, and heart damage in animals and although it has not been tested, it is possible that atrazine could cause these conditions in humans (Duke, 2010).How Atrazine is Removed from Water If you are worried about atrazine being in your tap water you can notify your local water provider to see if they monitor and test the contaminant every so often.
Additionally, you can purchase a home water filtration system that will remove atrazine from your water. Using a filter with granulated carbon filter (GAC) can remove less than 3 ppb from your drinking water. Working with a professional engineer will ensure the best treatment for your system (Vuchnich & Shochat, 2014). It is not guaranteed that every kind of treatment is effective and all contaminants are removed from the water. Other options to treatment include developing a different water source or using another safe water source in your region. Avoiding source water containing agricultural runoff is a good way to prevent atrazine contamination (Mercola, 2016). Ways to Reduce the Accumulation of Atrazine & Conserve Water There are many viable ways of growing corn and other crops without using atrazine.
In recent analyses, dropping atrazine would result in yield losses of less than 1%, much lower than industry estimates. Farmers in states like Minnesota are using innovative production systems to raise corn without atrazine. Since Germany and Italy banned atrazine in 1991, corn yields and acres of corn harvested have gone up, rather than down. Farm organizations such as the Land Stewardship Project have documented many ways to reduce and eliminate the use of atrazine in corn production (Atrazine runoff, 2005).There are a variety of options of growing corn and other crops without depending on atrazine.
Based on recent analyses, not using atrazine would outcome in yield losses less than 1%. Farmers in the states are using advanced production systems to raise corn without the herbicide. Since the ban of atrazine in 1991 by countries Italy and Germany, the percent of corn yield have went up instead of down (Ehlich, 2016). Farm organizations like the Land Stewardship Project suggest several ways to reduce the use of atrazine in corn production.
To decrease the risk of atrazine runoff farmers can not make applications near water sources or where the herbicide is likely to wash away. A way you can personally reduce your risk of exposure to atrazine is by staying away from places where it is being applied for control of weeds, and avoid working and digging in soils where it has been used (Toxic Substances, 2003).