A common herbicide has been found to contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans. Now a new study shows that this chemical, called atrazine, causes serious health issues in living organisms. The issues that occurred were very frightening and were induced in levels that a human could ingest through contaminated drinking water.
The atrazine was found to “chemically castrate” male frogs and turned others into females. Atrazine is a common weed killer used to control grasses in areas where more desirable crops are grown. In a recent study, 10% of male frogs exposed actually changed sex and nearly all of the males had low testosterone and sperm count levels. Atrazine has been linked in human studies to low birth weight, premature development, birth defects and low sperm count.
Atrazine has been banned in Europe, but it is still the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. with 76 million pounds applied each year. Atrazine is a known endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are exogenous substances that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones.
About 75% of stream water samples and 40% of groundwater samples contain atrazine, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, detected atrazine in 90% of tap water samples from 139 water systems.
The company that makes atrazine denies that it is unsafe stating that its own studies show it has no sexual effect on frogs despite the fact that many studies show the opposite. This is another instance of a major corporation trying to keeps its product on the market at all costs. By most accounts this is the most widely used herbicide in the world so it’s a huge money maker for Syngenta, the main producer of atrazine. You will be surprised to know Syngenta is actually just an arm of the pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Novartis. On their website they state that their name means “bringing people together.” Seems like a funny name for a company that refuses to admit their products are potentially dangerous for entire populations of people.
Endocrine disruptors like atrazine are a major problem in the U.S. Atrazine appears to act on animal physiology by mimicking the hormone estrogen. That would explain how it could change male frogs to female frogs and would also explain the observations of low sperm counts seen in both frogs and humans exposed to atrazine. Syngenta would have you believe this happens at high levels of exposure but it simply is not true. Even exposure to low levels of these chemicals can be harmful. Also take into account that atrazine is not the only endocrine disruptor in our environment. They are found in plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys and cosmetics.
This chemical is obviously dangerous because Europe has banned its use, but Big Pharma has much too much power for that here in the United States. Unfortunately, it will continue to be in our water supply until something very serious happens to a large group of people. There are ways for you to protect yourself. A simple filter on your faucet will filter out this chemical. If you have small children or value your own health, it would be wise to consider a filtration system for your home.