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BOTTLE-FED BABIES
AT RISK FROM ATRAZINE
IN TAP WATER

The toxic weed killer atrazine is polluting tap water in almost 800 Midwestern communities, and the government has underestimated exposure to the carcinogen by 15 times for infants fed formula mixed with tap water, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

In 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified atrazine -- the most widely used pesticide in the United States -- as among the most toxic. While inclusion on this list should qualify the chemical for a ban or at least tougher controls under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), it appears unlikely that the EPA will take such action by the first FQPA deadline. The 1996 FQPA requires the EPA protect children by limiting their exposure to the most dangerous pesticides in food, water and the home by August, 1999.

The EPA, World Health Organization, and even the manufacturer of atrazine, Novartis, all agree that the chemical causes cancer in laboratory animals. Further studies of the toxic weed killer also show that it causes an increase in breast cancer, lymphoma, leukemia and female reproductive tissue cancer.

Atrazine is used extensively on corn crops throughout the Midwest. After it is applied each spring, atrazine runs off croplands, passes through water treatment plants and contaminates the tap water of millions of Midwestern homes.

"Water utilities are working hard and spending millions to lower the level of this toxic chemical in tap water. Why should they and their customers pay for the mess created by a multi-billion dollar foreign company? Atrazine should be banned by the EPA. It shouldn't be in our water to begin with," said EWG President Ken Cook.

The EWG report, "Into the Mouths of Babes," found:

Novartis is lobbying aggressively to keep atrazine on the market in the United States. Novartis' home country of Switzerland tightly regulates atrazine. Many other European countries have banned the chemical.

EPA's failure to act to protect children from atrazine is just one example of inaction by regulators in implementing congressional mandates concerning pesticides. EWG says this delay is the result of a larger lobbying effort by pesticide companies.

A companion report by EWG, "From Bureaucrats to Fat Cats," shows a significant number of former EPA pesticide regulators now lobby for pesticide companies fighting FQPA.

EPA has had atrazine under "special review" for many years based on solid data, but the agency has failed to act, despite knowing that children are consuming inordinate amounts of this chemical in tap water and in reconstituted infant formula.

"This product is a serious threat to infants' health," said report author Jane Houlihan of EWG. "The government should be taking decisive action on it."

Written by: Environmental Working Group.
Contact: Mike Casey/Melissa Haynes - Ph: (202) 667-6982


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