Although this really did not shock or surprise any of us, not a lot of testing takes place for a commonly used pesticide/herbicide called atrazine… and it seems as though little action gets taken when spikes in atrazine concentrations do get recorded.

Despite growing health concerns about atrazine, an agricultural weedkiller sprayed on farm fields across the Midwest, most drinking water is tested for the chemical only four times a year — so rarely that worrisome spikes of the chemical likely go undetected.

High levels of the herbicide can linger in tap water during the growing season, according to more frequent tests in some agricultural communities.

Spread heaviest on cornfields, atrazine is one of the most commonly detected contaminants in drinking water. Studies have found that exposure to small amounts of the chemical can turn male frogs into females and might be more harmful to humans than once thought.

Even with limited official testing, atrazine in the past four years was detected in the drinking water of 60 Illinois communities where more than a million people live, according to a Tribune analysis of state and federal records.

Under a deal between the EPA and the chief manufacturer of atrazine, about 130 water utilities in 10 states are tested weekly or biweekly. The Tribune analysis showed that during 2008, four downstate towns — Evansville, Farina, Flora and Mount Olive — were among nine Midwest communities where the average annual level of atrazine and its breakdown products exceeded the federal safety limit of 3 parts per billion. About half of the 130 saw concentrations that jumped above 3 parts per billion at least once that year.

In Flora, about 240 miles south of Chicago, atrazine levels spiked as high as 30 parts per billion. The findings concern researchers because some studies have shown adverse affects from exposure to concentrations as small as 0.1 parts per billion. The chemical has not been found in Chicago tap water, in part because Lake Michigan dilutes farm runoff.

The more frequent tests are done outside the EPA’s official monitoring program and don’t count when regulators consider whether communities meet the legal limit for atrazine.

They also don’t trigger provisions in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act that require the public to be notified about water contamination. As a result, residents are rarely advised that they can buy inexpensive filters to screen the chemical out of their tap water.

Atrazine can’t be sprayed in Europe because it contaminates groundwater, but it remains widely used in the U.S., where the EPA endorsed its continued use as recently as 2006, based on a scientific review from 2003. Federal records show the review was heavily influenced by industry and relied on studies financed by Syngenta, a Swiss-based company that manufactures most of the atrazine sprayed in the U.S. ( source )

The last paragraph cited above pretty much says it all: The word of the chemical manufacturer, and not that of an independent organization, got used to shape and mold public policy regarding the testing and regulation of atrazine.

 Pesticide in Water Test Kit: Atrazine 0 to 3ppb, Simazine 0 to 4 ppb (487996) 2 Test Per Kit, Result in 10 Minutes
Pesticide in Water Test
Atrazine & Simazine
2 Tests for Each
National Testing Labs
National Testing Labs
83 Water Parameters
20 Pesticides/Herbicides

Want our advice? Of course you do!

If you live w/in 50 to 100 miles of an agricultural area and have a well, or your local water system draws from a well located near agricultural areas, either get your water tested for atrazine as well as other pesticides and herbicides several times a year — especially after periods of heavy rain and/or runoff.

Test kits such as the Pesticide Test Kit for atrazine and simazine work well as occasional screening methods but when it comes to giving the final word on whether or not your water contains harmful contaminants, always turn to the experts at a certified drinking water testing lab such as National Testing Labs.