NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmentalists Go After Atrazine

August 6, 1999

The latest chemical in the gun-sights of environmental activists is the popular herbicide atrazine. An outfit called the Environmental Working Group claims that it contaminates tap water and is giving babies cancer. But respected scientific research organizations have found no evidence of that. The EWG also claims, contrary to all evidence, that cancer in children is increasing.

Atrazine has been used in the U.S. for 40 years -- on two-thirds of our corn, 60 percent of sorghum, and 90 percent of sugar cane. More than 80 other countries also use it.

  • The EWG focused on studies of mammary tumor formations in a single species of rat -- a finding which the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded wasn't relevant to humans.
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no overall increase in childhood cancer rates and rates in adults is actually falling.
  • Childhood cancer in Canada -- a country which uses atrazine -- is going down.
  • Although farmers, naturally enough, have high exposure to atrazine, research has established they have lower overall rates of cancer, are healthier and live longer than nonfarmers.

Critics note a growing tendency among activist groups to embrace and publicize junk science in support of their political aims.

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "Baby Killer or Just a Weed Killer?" Investor's Business Daily, August 4, 1999.


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