Atrazine was reregistered by the EPA in 2006 after 6,000 studies were conducted to determine its safety. Four years later, it is being reviewed again.

In a teleconference last week, Jere White, chairman of the Triazine Network, said that EPA cited a “media report and claims by an anti-atrazine group” when it announced the September 2010 re-review of atrazine. White added that the EPA did not cite sound science to initiate a review process.

The EPA responded that it has “an ongoing statutory responsibility to ensure that pesticides currently on the market continue to meet the standards in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Atrazine’s reevaluation process has always been dynamic, not static. This review is based on transparency and sound science, including independent scientific peer review. Based on this evaluation, the agency will decide whether to revise its current atrazine risk assessments and whether new restrictions are necessary to better protect health and the environment.”

Public Health

Farm Industry News asked EPA what new scientific evidence (specifically) prompted EPA’s call for a reevaluation of atrazine. “Given the new body of scientific information as well as the documented presence of atrazine in both drinking water sources and other bodies of water, the agency decided to consider the new research and to ensure that our regulatory decisions about atrazine protect public health,” EPA answered.

The EPA told Farm Industry News that in the seven years since the agency issued the interim reregistration eligibility decision, significant atrazine research has been done, with more than 100 new studies available on its potential human health effects. “The agency has also received an extensive amount of drinking water and ambient surface water monitoring data from the registrants of atrazine as an ongoing condition of reregistration,” the EPA stated. “The agency is reviewing the new data to ensure that our regulatory decisions about atrazine are protective.”

The EPA said that it is reconsidering atrazine's potential human health effects including both cancer and non-cancer effects. The agency's earlier conclusions about these effects are discussed at
http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/reregistration/atrazine/atrazine_update.htm#cancer and
http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/reregistration/atrazine/atrazine_update.htm#cws.

Economic Impact

Banning atrazine would also have serious effects. During the Triazine Network teleconference, Don Coursey, a University of Chicago economist, said that an atrazine ban in the corn production industry alone would cost between 21,000 and 48,000 jobs. It would also significantly impact the sorghum and sugarcane industries. Coursey has published a study on the potential impacts of an atrazine ban. For more information, visit http://agsense.org.

Coursey said that Syngenta Crop Protection, the manufacturer of atrazine, approached him five years ago to study a hypothetical ban on atrazine for corn, just in the state of Illinois. He found that if atrazine was not allowed to be used on corn, the cost to Illinois corn growers would be $26 to $58/acre (depending on yield variations). Assuming that the $26 to $58/acre range estimate could be applied to the country’s major corn production areas, an atrazine ban could result in annual losses of between $2.3 billion and $5 billion.

Given that atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the U.S., would EPA consider its gradual phaseout if it determines the herbicide is hazardous to human health? Through the science advisory panel (SAP) process, EPA is evaluating information from pesticide companies, other governments, academia and published scientific literature to ensure that its decisions are based on the best science available. The studies being reviewed by the SAPs are made available to the public and listed in a bibliography in the docket for each SAP Meeting. See http://www.epa.gov/scipoly/sap/meetings/2010/index.html for the docket information for each meeting in 2010.

“Based on atrazine’s reevaluation, the agency will decide whether to revise its current atrazine risk assessments and whether new restrictions are necessary to better protect health and the environment,” the EPA stated.