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Atrazine Poisoning
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The Unseen Enemy
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Another Big Farm Herbicide Declared Toxic

By James Donahue

The stuff is called atrazne and it has been touted for years as a safe and natural weed killers for farm use. But a federal judge in southern Illinois has just approved a $105 million settlement between the Swiss manufacturer, Syngenta and community water systems in six Midwestern states. This is because the chemical has seeped into aquifers and poisoned the drinking water.

The ruling handed down by Judge J. Paul Gilbert appears to have concluded an eight-year-long lawsuit involving nearly 2,000 community water systems and 52 million consumers who claimed to have been impacted by the herbicide. The communities have been strapped with the cost of filtering the chemical and paying for testing. The states affected were Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio.

Atrazine was banned in the European Union in 2004 because of the problem of groundwater contamination. But the herbicide continued to be used widely in the United States, with 76 millions pounds of it applied to crops each year. It was said to be one of the most widely used herbicides in the world.

In spite of the findings by the European Union, and a growing number of reports in the United States of health problems believed linked to atrazine, the Natural Resources Defense Council accused the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency of ignoring the growing threat of atrazine contamination in surface and drinking water, especially in the central United States.

The New York Times in August 2009 published a report that linked atrazine to birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems when consumed at concentrations below the established federal standards.

Most alarming was that the chemical was found in 80 percent of the drinking water samples taken in 153 public water systems. Twenty watersheds sampled in 2007 and 2008 contained detectable levels of atrazine, and 16 of these had concentrations high enough to harm plants and wildlife.