News / USA

Popular Weed Killer Stirs Health, Environmental Concerns

Popular Weed Killer Stirs Health, Environmental Concernsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Zulima Palacio
May 07, 2012 9:37 PM
Atrazine is the most widely-used weed-killer in the United States. It is also one of the most controversial. Studies have linked atrazine to environmental damage and adverse health effects, including cancer. While the European Union banned its use nearly ten years ago, it is still approved for use in U.S. corn, sugarcane and sorghum fields. For a closer look at the pros and cons of atrazine, producer Zulima Palacio traveled first to a farm in Poolesville, Maryland, not far from the nation's capital.

Popular Weed Killer Stirs Health, Environmental Concerns

POOLESVILLE, Maryland -- Atrazine is the most widely-used weed-killer in the United States. It is also one of the most controversial.  Studies have linked atrazine to environmental damage and adverse health effects, including cancer.  While the European Union banned its use nearly ten years ago, it is still approved for use in U.S. corn, sugarcane and sorghum fields.  

Jamie Jamison produces corn, wheat and soybeans on his 500-hectare farm.  To boost production, he uses genetically modified seeds. To control weeds, he uses Atrazine. “It gives us good long-season control and allows us to have a good crop," Jamison said.

Jamison takes precautions when he sprays atrazine on his fields. He knows the wind could take the pesticide to unintended areas and kill other crops, or pollute waterways. But he's convinced its benefits outweigh the risks.   

But opposition to Atrazine is growing. “I think the most convincing evidence of effects on humans is actually the ones on birth defects data, and also reports on effects on male reproductive fitness, poor sperm quality and low sperm mobility," said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, a private environmental group.
 
Sass says critics are not convinced by the safety studies done by Atrazine's leading manufacturer, the Swiss giant, Syngenta. “I think Syngenta has been able to use its lobbying and financial weight to keep this argument going on for so long,” Sass said.

Although Atrazine's product label says it is toxic to aquatic invertebrates, Tim Pastoor, the company's principle scientist, says Syngenta's studies prove Atrazine is safe, if used properly. “As principal scientist with Syngenta I take it very seriously," Pastoor said.

Pastoor says U.S. farmers annually apply more than 35 million kilograms of Atrazine on their fields.  He concedes it doesn't always stay there.

“On occasion, Atrazine gets into the water, but in such low amounts that it will not harm human or environmental health,” Pastoor said.  

Fish pathologist Vicki Blazer, with the U.S. Geological Survey, studies fish mortality and mutations  and collects evidence on water pollutants. She has found fish with compromised immune systems. She blames that on Atrazine and other farm runoff.  

“... the spreading of poultry litter and then runoff during storms, plus herbicides such as Atrazine and other pesticides we are finding,” Blazer said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment for this report.  But EPA's website acknowledges public concerns about Atrazine in drinking water. “Europe has made a very reasonable and very scientific decision that people shouldn’t drink pesticides in their drinking water,” Sass said.  

Syngenta continues to defend the safety of Atrazine when it's used responsibly.  U.S. farmers like Jamie Jamison, who appreciates the fewer weeds and bigger harvests, plan to continue using it.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid