Chemical safe as herbicide, despite environment claims

Chemical safe as herbicide, despite environment claims

By The College News Network
Published: January 24, 2011

Ever since Rachel Carson’s book “The Silent Spring” came out in 1962, every pesticide in the United States has received intense scrutiny from the government to determine its safety for humans and wildlife. While this necessary and beneficial change is welcomed, some environmental activists have held the position that any sort of pesticide use is dangerous and consequently have manufactured several baseless claims to undermine pesticide usage in American agriculture. One of the most frequently targeted chemicals is atrazine, a herbicide used in grain and nut farming, woodlands, and lawns to control a wide variety of weeds.

Atrazine is a highly effective chemical used in no-till farming, a farming system used to prevent soil erosion. In no-till farming, farmers do not turn over the soil to eliminate weeds so more crop residue is left on the field. Instead, farmers spray the field one to two times a year to eliminate weeds. According to the Nov. 1, 2001 issue of the Christian Science Monitor article, “Farmers urged to beat their plows into drills,” the leftover stalks and leaves from the last crop reduces soil erosion to essentially zero, decreases water usage by 40 percent, cuts total herbicide usage and saves the farmer several passes through the field each year, thereby burning less fossil fuels. An article in the June 2006 issue of Crops magazine states, “Possibilities are endless when switching to min-till” and earthworm populations skyrocket when using a no-till system.

The safety of atrazine is also confirmed by several studies done by the Environmental Protection Agency. According to page 59 of the March 28, 2006 Triazine Cumulative Risk Assessment report done by the EPA, “Risk estimates for cumulative exposures to triazine residues via drinking water based on currently registered uses of atrazine and simazine are not of concern.” The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer stated in 1998, “Atrazine is deemed ‘not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans,’ placing it in the same cancer risk category as substances such as tea, rubbing alcohol and talc,” and in 2007 concluded that atrazine does not cause malformations of the embryo or the fetus in pregnant women. The WHO is so confident in the safety of atrazine it raised its recommendation standard for drinking water to 100 parts per billion. This compares to the U.S. standard of three parts per billion. Countless other organizations share the same belief. Contrary to some sources, atrazine is not banned in the European Union and its very close chemical cousin terbuthylazine is a registered.

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