This is a fact sheet about a chemical that may be found in some public or
private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems if found
in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What is Atrazine and how is it used?
Atrazine is a white, crystalline solid organic compound. It is a widely
used herbicide for control of broadleaf and grassy weeds. Atrazine was
estimated to be the most heavily used herbicide in the United States in
1987/89, with its most extensive use for corn and soybeans in Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Effective in 1993, its uses were greatly restricted.
The list of trade names given below may help you find out whether you are using this chemical at home or work.
Trade Names and Synonyms:
Why is Atrazine being regulated?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires
EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water which do or
may cause health problems. These non-enforceable levels, based solely on
possible health risks and exposure, are called Maximum Contaminant Level
The MCLG for atrazine has been set at 3 parts per billion (ppb)
because EPA believes this level of protection would not cause any of the
health effects described below.
Based on this MCLG, EPA has set an enforceable standard called a
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as
possible, considering the ability of public water systems to detect and
remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.
The MCL has been set at 3 ppb because EPA believes, given present
technology and resources, this is the lowest level to which water
systems can reasonably be required to remove this contaminant should it
occur in drinking water.
These drinking water standards and the regulations for ensuring
these standards are met, are called National Primary Drinking Water
Regulations. All public water supplies must abide by these regulations.
What are the health effects?
Short-term: EPA has found atrazine to potentially cause the following
health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for
relatively short periods of time: congestion of heart, lungs and
kidneys; low blood pressure; muscle spasms; weight loss; damage to
Long-term: Atrazine has the potential to cause the following
effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: weight loss,
cardiovascular damage, retinal and some muscle degeneration; cancer.
How much Atrazine is produced and released to the environment?
Atrazine may be released to the environment in wastewater from
manufacturing facilities and through its use as a herbicide. Atrazine
was the second most frequently detected pesticide in EPA's National
Survey of Pesticides in Drinking Water Wells. EPA's Pesticides in Ground
Water Database indicates numerous detections of atrazine at
concentrations above the MCL in ground water in several States,
including Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and New York.
What happens to Atrazine when it is released to the environment?
Microbial activity and other chemicals may breakdown atrazine in soil
and water, particularly in alkaline conditions. Sunlight and evaporation
do not reduce its presence. It may bind to some soils, but generally
tends to leach to ground water.
Atrazine is not likely to be taken up in the tissues of plants or animals.
How will Atrazine be detected in and removed from my drinking water?
The regulation for atrazine became effective in 1992. Between 1993 and
1995, EPA required your water supplier to collect water samples every 3
months for one year and analyze them to find out if atrazine is present
above 1 ppb. If it is present above this level the system must continue
to monitor this contaminant.
If contaminant levels are found to be consistently above the MCL,
your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of atrazine so
that it is consistently below that level. The following treatment
methods have been approved by EPA for removing atrazine: Granular
How will I know if Atrazine is in my drinking water?
If the levels of atrazine exceed the MCL, 3 ppb, the system must notify
the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional
actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be
required to prevent serious risks to public health.
This is a factsheet about a chemical that may be found in some
public or private drinking water supplies. It may cause health problems
if found in amounts greater than the health standard set by the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Drinking Water Standards:
Note: This fact sheet is part of a larger publication
adapted from U.S. EPA publication: EPA National Primary Drinking Water
|Mclg: 3 ppb (parts per billion)