What is Atrazine? Atrazine is one of the most common herbicides (weed-killer) widely used to control tough weeds on food crops like corn, and is also used on golf courses and lawns. It’s chemical formula is C8H14ClN5. In its pure state it is a odourless white crystalline solid.
It is slightly soluble. Under regular temperatures and pressures it is stable, but it can burn when exposed to heat or flame (Cornell University, 1993). For many years farmers have depended on atrazine for their weeds because of its cost and effectiveness against other herbicides. It can spread onto crops as a liquid, powder, or in granular form. For it to be active, atrazine has to be dissolved in water and go through the plants roots (Toxic Substances, 2003). From there it leaves the weed and stops the process of photosynthesis. In the most corn growing states in the US such as Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, Nebraska, and Indiana around 80 million pounds of atrazine are used annually (Hayes, n.
d).Atrazine in drinking water One of the major sources of atrazine found in drinking water is from runoff from the herbicide used on crops. When it gets washed from the soil by rainfall, it can enter surrounding areas, such as lakes, streams, or other bodies of water. Levels of atrazine found in drinking water depend on regions where the contaminant is used extensively, therefore areas that use it the most have potential for high amounts of runoff. Atrazine contamination has been reported in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan (Vuchnich & Shochat, 2014). Since 2004, Atrazine was officially banned in the European Union and single countries in Europe banned it as early as 1991, citing it as a major contributor to water contamination. Being aware of the potential dangers this could cause to people from their drinking water (it is possibly carcinogenic to humans), Health Canada set an acceptable limit in drinking water at 5 parts per billion (Ehlich, 2016).
Health Canada also recently decided in March not to ban the contaminant. Environmental Effects Despite atrazine being an easy solution to control weeds and increase yields, it is a real threat for other species. Although most animals are not dangerously affected by low amounts, fish and amphibians are the most vulnerable. A number of research shows that atrazine exposure can negatively impact many species (Oram, n.
d). It causes severe health effects such as immunosuppression, (reduced strength of the immune system) hermaphroditism; In 2002, a study discovered that male tadpoles that were exposed to atrazine caused them to turn into hermaphrodites–frogs that have both male and female sexual characteristics as low as 2.5 parts per billion (Sanders, 2010).