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 Glyphosate and how is it used?
Glyphosate is an organic solid of odorless white crystals. It is a
non-selective herbicide used on many food and non-food crops as well as
non-crop areas such as roadsides. When applied at lower rates, it serves
as a plant growth regulator. The most common uses include control of
broadleaf weeds and grasses in: hay/pasture, soybeans, field corn;
ornamentals, lawns, turf, forest plantings, greenhouses, rights-of-way.
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 Glyphosate 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 glyphosate has been set at 0.7 parts per million (ppm)
because EPA believes this level of protection would not cause any of the
potential health problems 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 0.7 ppm 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 glyphosate 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 the lungs; increased
Long-term: Glyphosate has the potential to cause the following
effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: kidney damage,
How much Glyphosate is produced and released to the environment?
Glyphosate is released to the environment in its use as a herbicide for
controlling woody and herbaceous weeds on forestry, right-of-way,
cropped and non-cropped sites. These sites may be around water and in
It may also be released to the environment during its manufacture,
formulation, transport, storage, disposal and cleanup, and from spills.
Glyphosate is among the most widely used pesticides by volume. Usage in
1990 was estimated to be 11,595,000 pounds. It ranked eleventh among
conventional pesticides in the US during 1990-91. In recent years, 13 to
20 million acres were treated with 18.7 million lbs. annually.
What happens to Glyphosate when it is released to the environment?
Glyphosate is strongly adsorbed to soil, with little potential for
leaching to ground water. Microbes in the soil readily and completely
degrade it even under low temperature conditions. It tends to adhere to
sediments when released to water. Glyphosate does not tend to accumulate
in aquatic life.
How will Glyphosate be detected in and removed from my drinking
The regulation for glyphosate became effective in 1994. 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 glyphosate is
present above 6 parts per billion. 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 glyphosate
so that it is consistently below that level. The following treatment
methods have been approved by EPA for removing glyphosate: Granular
How will I know if Glyphosate is in my drinking water?
If the levels of glyphosate exceed the MCL, 0.7 ppm, 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: 0.7 ppm (parts per million)
Mcl: 0.7 ppm