Ground Water Canada

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Environmental groups find atrazine in drinking water, urge federal government to ban its use


March 20, 2017
By Ground Water Canada

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Ottawa – Drinking water testing, commissioned by Environmental Defence and Équiterre found levels of atrazine, a harmful pesticide linked to hormone disruption in humans, fish and frogs, in Montreal and Toronto’s public distribution systems. Environmental groups Environmental Defence and Equiterre are urging the federal health minister to ban atrazine because of concerns over human health and the environment.

Environmental Defence, an environmental watchdog, says in a news release atrazine found in concentrations above the European safety level underlines the need for the federal government to ban its use, even though it was below the less cautious Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines. “It is alarming that Canadians are being exposed to levels of atrazine considered dangerous by other countries. The European Union banned atrazine 13 years ago. Why can’t Health Canada offer similar protections to Canadians?” said Sidney Ribaux, Executive Director at Équiterre.

Recently, the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) conducted a study to determine whether to continue to allow the use of this controversial pesticide. However, the review failed to consider contamination of major drinking water sources for Canadians and risks to human health and the environment, the action group said. The review also failed to consider evidence about the effects of atrazine on the health of farmers, farm workers, pesticide applicators and farming communities who are most exposed; and the pesticide’s cumulative effects with other toxic substances in the environment.

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“Surface water such as Lake Ontario provides millions of Canadians with drinking water, and the fact that Health Canada did not investigate these water sources in their study is very disconcerting,” said Tim Gray, executive director at Environmental Defence. “The only solution to fully protect Canadians and our waterways is to ban atrazine altogether from all agricultural uses.”

Maryse Bouchard, associate professor at the School of Public Health of the University of Montréal weighed in on the issue: “Even at concentrations close to the European standard, several effects of atrazine on amphibians and animals have been demonstrated, including impacts on reproduction and development. Some studies also suggest harmful effects on human reproduction and development at concentrations in water similar to those analyzed in the Montreal and Toronto tap water samples.”

The group is asking the health minister to direct the PMRA to conduct a more thorough review that includes the impact of surface water contamination and all other potential impacts to human health and biodiversity.