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Atrazine in Canadian, US water

The New York Times reports today that, “An investigation by The New York Times has found that in some towns, atrazine concentrations in drinking water have spiked, sometimes for longer than a month. But the reports produced by local water systems for residents often fail to reflect those higher concentrations.”

“Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency say Americans are not exposed to unsafe levels of atrazine. They say that current regulations are adequate to protect human health, and that the doses of atrazine coming through people’s taps are safe – even when concentrations jump.”

“But some scientists and health advocates disagree. They argue that the recent studies offer enough concerns that the government should begin re-examining its regulations. They also say that local water systems – which have primary responsibility for the safety of drinking water – should be forced to monitor atrazine more frequently, in order to detect short-term increases and warn people when they occur.”

“Forty percent of the nation’s community water systems violated the Safe Drinking Water Act at least once last year, according to a Times analysis of E.P.A. data, and dozens of chemicals have been detected at unsafe levels in drinking water.”

“The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, is expected to release a report on Monday saying that weak E.P.A. regulation of atrazine poses risks to humans and the environment. Other organizations have made similar charges about a variety of chemicals, including fuel additives, dry cleaning and manufacturing solvents, and industrial waste dumped into water supplies.”

There may be more recent data, but a 1993 Health Canada report on atrazine notes, “Atrazine is used extensively in Canada as a pre- and post-emergence weed control agent, primarily for corn but also for rapeseed, and for total vegetation control in non-cropland and industrial areas. Nearly 2 million kilograms of active ingredient were sold in Canada in 1988, about 70% of this being sold in Ontario.”

“Atrazine contamination has been reported in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. In 1985, 85% of ambient water samples in one area of southwestern Ontario were found to be contaminated with traces of atrazine. Similar results have been reported for surface waters in Quebec.”

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has stated, “Atrazine (or its by-products) is one of the most frequently detected pesticides in surface and well water and contamination incidents have been reported in nearly all of Canada.”

As noted on various websites, atrazine was banned in the European Union in 2004 because of its persistent contamination of groundwater. Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. It is also probably the most commonly used herbicide in the world, and is still used in about 80 countries worldwide including Canada.

The New York Times article is at

The Health Canada report is at