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Atrazine molecule

Know Your Chemicals: Atrazine

June 15, 2017

Atrazine is the second most widely used pesticide in the US (after glyphosate), with over 73 million pounds applied each year. A common agricultural pesticide, atrazine also is used on turf for broadleaf and grassy weed control. Because atrazine kills cool-season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, it is primarily used on lawns in warmer climates (ie. the Southeastern United States).

In humans, atrazine has been linked to:
• Endocrine disruption (what does this mean, anyway?)
• Cancer
• Birth defects and reproductive disorders
• Neurological effects
• Kidney and liver damage
• Eye and skin irritation

How are people exposed to atrazine? Not just direct contact with treated lawns, fields, and food. Atrazine is found in 94% of drinking water tested by the USDA, usually spiking in spring and summer months when it's most heavily applied. Even at extremely low levels, atrazine can interfere with human hormones, fetal development, and fertility. The European Union banned its use in 2004 over concerns that it is a groundwater contaminant.

What is endocrine disruption?

Your endocrine system is the set of glands and hormones they produce (such as estrogen, testosterone, and adrenaline) that help guide your development, growth, and reproduction. Some chemicals—known as endocrine disruptors—mimic your hormones, block hormone absorption, or otherwise alter the concentration of hormones in your body. Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked to ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, early puberty, infertility, and other reproductive disorders.

Sources: Beyond Pesticides and Pesticide Action Network

Photo credit: Lacuna Design / Getty Images