Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass

Publication: The New York Times

Author: Charles Duhigg


08/22/2009 - For decades, farmers, lawn care workers and professional green thumbs have relied on the popular weed killer atrazine to protect their crops, golf courses and manicured lawns.

But atrazine often washes into water supplies and has become among the most common contaminants in American reservoirs and other sources of drinking water.

Now, new research suggests that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought. Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems.

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“The public believes that the E.P.A. has carefully reviewed all the chemicals that are used and has the authority it needs to deal with risks, but that’s often not the case,” said Erik D. Olson, director of food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and a former lawyer at the E.P.A. and for the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works.

“The E.P.A. is working with weak laws, basic research at the agency is often seriously underfunded, and in some cases there’s institutional inertia against change,” he added. “That’s contributed to a sense that the agency is often slow to react to new science showing risks.”

Read the full article Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass on the New York Times' Web site.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information visit the Environmental Health Project (Kid-Safe Chemicals) on PewHealth.org.

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