Today, 58 organizations and individuals from Wisconsin and 11 other states submitted a joint letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of public comment on a proposed federal ban on atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. Atrazine is highly persistent in the environment and as a result, it is one of the most widespread contaminants of our nation’s groundwater and drinking water. Scientific studies have linked atrazine with endocrine disruption, reproductive damage, and cancers in humans and wildlife.
Organized by Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, the joint letter to EPA says that the current approach in Wisconsin and other states consistently remands action only after an exposure to unsafe levels of atrazine has occurred. The use of atrazine, or any farm chemicals containing it, has already been banned in more than 1.2 million acres in Wisconsin but only after contaminant concentrations in groundwater climbed above health-based standards and rural families were exposed to unsafe levels of atrazine in their well water.
“We are particularly concerned that this approach may not be protective of pregnant mothers and infants as even short term exposure to high levels of atrazine at a critical time in prenatal and early childhood development may cause significant harm,” the groups wrote to EPA.
According to the federal health agency ATSDR, atrazine may affect pregnant women by causing their babies to grow more slowly than normal. Birth defects and liver, kidney, and heart damage have been seen in animals exposed to high levels of atrazine. In pregnant animals, exposure to atrazine causes a decrease in fetal growth and birth defects.
Atrazine is applied before and after planting to control broadleaf and grassy weeds. It is used primarily on corn, sorghum, and sugarcane, and is applied most heavily in the Midwest. As of July 2005, approximately 23,000 drinking water wells in Wisconsin had been tested for atrazine. Of these, more than 35% had atrazine contamination. Levels of atrazine and its breakdown products exceeded health-based standards in more than 500 private wells.
Wisconsin-based organizations that co-signed the letter supporting a national ban include the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Crawford Stewardship Project, Kickapoo Peace Circle, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Casa Maria Catholic Worker Community, Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society, Wisconsin Environmental Health Network, Door County Environmental Council, Artha Sustainable Living Center LLC, Family Farm Defenders, Slow Food UW, Center for Sustainability and Global Environment, CROPP Cooperative – Organic Valley Family of Farms, Madison Audubon Society, Wisconsin Audubon Council, Valley Stewardship Network, Wisconsin Metro Audubon Society, Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin, People Empowered Protect the Land, Community Midwives, Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, and Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger.
Also co-signing were Tribal Environmental Watch Alliance (NM), Community Right to Know Committee (PA), Defense Depot Memphis Tennessee – Concerned Citizens Committee (TN), BURNT (TN), Coalition For A Safe Environment (CA), California Kids IAQ (CA), Community Dreams (CA), Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (WY), Toxics Action Center (MA), The Annie Appleseed Project (FL), Your Bosom Buddies II, Inc. Breast Cancer Support Group (FL), Christians Caring for Creation (CA), Protect All Children’s Environment (NC), Protect Biodiversity in Public Forests (OH), 1 Up On Cancer (AL), Columbia River Education and Economic Development (OR), Clean Air Now, Elon (NC), and individual concerned citizens.
The EPA’s call for public comments on the proposed nationwide ban was prompted by thousands of petition signatures and emails from supporters of Save the Frogs, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The opportunity for formal public comment will end on Monday, November 14.
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger is a community-led grassroots organization working for clean water and a healthy future – free of environmental toxins that are affecting delicate wetland areas, natural springs, waterways and groundwater in rural Wisconsin. CSWAB was organized in 1990 by neighbors of Badger Army Ammunition Plant when high levels of cancer-causing chemicals were discovered in nearby private drinking water wells. The group is working to assure the complete cleanup of solvents, explosives and other toxins that have placed ecological and human health at risk.
Laura Olah, Executive Director
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB)
E12629 Weigand’s Bay South
Merrimac, WI 53561