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STOKING FIRE: OTC Weed-Killing Toxin Causes Birth Defects, Poses Wide Range of Other Health Hazards

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Back in May, Syngenta, one of the world's largest pesticide manufacturers -- a company with offices in 90 countries and a workforce of 26,000 people -- settled an eight-year-old class action lawsuit for $105 million. The agreement provides funding to more than 30 districts in the Midwestern United States to clean up water supplies that had been contaminated by Atrazine, a pesticide that was banned by the European Union in 2004 and that the National Institutes of Health have linked to adult illnesses and disabilities in newborn babies who were exposed to it in utero. 

According to the NIH, research indicates that the number of babies born with birth defects in places where Atrazine is sprayed -- defects that include spina bifida, Down syndrome, respiratory anomalies, and esophageal, and gastrointestinal abnormalities--is consistently higher in the months following its use.  

"Atrazine is applied and spread on crops in the spring," Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council explains.

"It then goes into the ground water. The amount spikes during application season so that there are weeks, or even months, when people are exposed to drinking water containing more than three parts per billion -- the threshold for safety that has been determined by the Environmental Protection Agency--of this known endocrine disruptor. That's why when a woman conceives during Atrazine application season, she is more likely to have a baby with health issues."

And the danger of Atrazine extends beyond physical imperfections in newborns. The Centers for Disease Control found that "chronic high dose toxicity observed in animals demonstrated decreased body weight, myocardial muscle degeneration, liver toxicity, developmental ossification defects, impaired fertility, altered estrus cycles, delayed onset of puberty, and reduced levels of luteinizing hormones, prolactin, and testosterone." In addition, scientists noticed that humans exposed to high levels of Atrazine had an elevated risk of miscarriage, breast, and prostate cancers.

 

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