California Slaps Health Warning Label on Popular Weed Killer

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The most commonly found pesticide in U.S. ground and surface water – a toxic weed killer called atrazine – will now have to carry a warning label in the most populated state in the country.

Agribusiness giant Syngenta – Monsanto’s biggest competitor – was dealt a major blow on Friday, when the state of California added atrazine, the company’s top-selling weed killer, to the state’s list of toxic chemicals.

The move by California health officials could drastically cut the use of the hormone-disrupting chemical in the state. Atrazine is the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S., and is found in the drinking water supply of more than 27 million Americans.

The pesticide has been linked to a number of developmental and reproductive problems. Male frogs exposed to small doses of atrazine become functionally female, and studies show that the chemical interferes with the reproductive health of people, too.

Men and women exposed to atrazine have had reproductive abnormalities, such as poor semen quality and irregular menstrual cycles.

Chemicals that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment classifies as causing cancer, reproductive harm or birth defects are registered under a law known as Proposition 65. The law prevents businesses from knowingly exposing consumers to chemicals California knows to be toxic without providing a warning. Established by the state in 1986, the law’s list now includes more than 800 chemicals.

The EPA is currently reviewing atrazine to determine if it is safe to use, given new scientific research that has raised concerns about its adverse effects on health and the environment. The agency has already recognized that atrazine poses a risk to wildlife and will be assessing how the weed killer harms human health in the next year. The EPA must also review atrazine’s effects on endangered species, as required by a legal settlement with environmental advocates, including the Center for Biological Diversity.

Instead of using harmful gender-bending pesticides on our food, farmers should be incentivized to implement less chemically intensive weed management practices.

But most federal farm spending encourages large-scale industrial farming to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers that pollute streams, rivers and lakes. Of the meager federal support for more sustainable farming, little is dedicated to practices that reduce the need for pesticides. 

Now that the EPA and California have publicly recognized atrazine’s risks, it’s time to take the next step and ban it for good.

Click here to sign EWG’s petition: Tell the EPA to ban the endocrine-disrupting, water-contaminating pesticide today!




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