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Is There Atrazine in Your Drinking Water?

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center Page and our Canada News Page.

For more than 50 years farmers across North America have been spraying atrazine, a pesticide, on crops, mainly corn, applying millions of pounds a year.

That widespread use of the weed killer has also led to runoff. Atrazine can end up in lakes, streams and sometimes in drinking water. Related Stories

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"Atrazine is the number one contaminant found in drinking water in the U.S. and probably globally probably in the world", says University of California Berkeley, scientist Tyrone Hayes.

Health Canada is aware that atrazine can make its way into drinking water. According to the agency, "because atrazine has been classified in Group III (possibly carcinogenic to humans)" an acceptable amount in drinking water has been set at 5 parts per billion. In the United States, the level has been set at 3 parts per billion.

That means as long as the amount of atrazine stays below that limit, Health Canada believes it is safe for human consumption.

Atrazine levels in drinking water vary in different regions of the country and during different times of the year. For example, in areas where there are more corn crops and greater application of the pesticide there is the potential for higher runoff.

According to Health Canada, "in areas where atrazine is used extensively, it (or its dealkylated metabolites) is one of the most frequently detected pesticides in surface and well water. Atrazine contamination has been reported in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan."

Atrazine is manufactured by Syngenta, the world's largest agribusiness. The European Union removed atrazine from the market in 2004.          

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