Is atrazine a pesticide?

Agriculture uses several chemical compounds to function as pesticides, and Atrazine is an old herbicide in the triazines family, much used due to its low cost and because it acts in synergy when used with other herbicides.

Atrazine, it’s a common name for 2-chloro-4-methylamino-6-isopropylamino-s-triazine , is a selective herbicide that uses the pre- and post-treatment control of weed plants from different cultures.

The herbicides of the triazine family are divided into three groups:

  1. Chlorotriazines
  2. Methyltiotriazines
  3. Methoxythriazines

Atrazine, acts by inhibiting photosynthesis, particularly at the level of photosystem II, leading to the blockage of electronic transport. As plants are attacked by atrazine, they suffer from yellowing of the leaves, qualified as  tissue necrosis.

In atrazine-tolerant species, such as corn, the herbicide is efficiently metabolized to non-toxic forms.

Where is atrazine found?

Atrazine is manufactured in the laboratory and does not occur naturally.

Pure atrazine – an odorless white powder – it is not very volatile, reactive or flammable.

To be active, atrazine needs to be dissolved in water and enter plants through its roots. It acts on the weed stelm and leaves to stop photosynthesis.

Atrazine is absorbed by all plants, but there are some not affected by it and atrazine is decomposed before it can affect photosynthesis. The application of atrazine in crops as a herbicide is responsible for almost all the atrazine that enters the environment, but some can be released in the manufacture, formulation, transport.

What products contain atrazine?

Atrazine is a triazine-type herbicide, used in crops such as:

  • sugar cane,
  • corn,
  • pineapple,
  • sorghu,
  • macadamia

Also in evergreen tree farms and the sprouting of evergreen forests. Can be used to prevent weeds from growing in the rights of way of roads and railways.

Atrazine can be sprayed on cultivated land before crops begin to grow and after they emerge from the soil. Some of the trade names for atrazine are Aatrex®, Aatram®, Atratol®, and Gesaprim®.

Atrazine’s scientific name is 6-chloro-N-ethyl-N ‘- (1-methyl ethyl) -triazine-2,4-diamine.

It is a restricted-use pesticide (RUP), which means that only certified herbicide users can buy or use atrazine.

Certification for the use of atrazine is obtained through the appropriate state office, where the herbicide user is licensed. Certified herbicide workers can spread atrazine on crops as powder, liquid or granular. Atrazine is generally used in the spring and summer.

In Portugal, according to the directive granted to the Community directive, atrazine is still part of the list of products with authorized sale, being marketed, simply or in mixture with other herbicides, under various trade names (PrimextraRS Gold>, GesaprimeR, Graminex RA, among others) and for exclusive application in maize crops.

Is atrazine an organic compound?

Atrazine is an organic compound consisting of an s-triazine ring and is a widely used herbicide.

Its use is controversial due to the widespread contamination in drinking water and its associations with birth defects and menstrual problems.

Its intensive use and mobility in soils have contributed to those who are one of the most frequently detected pesticides in surface and groundwater, both in Europe and in the United States. This herbicide is still classified as an agent in Mexico, a hormone disruptor and a carcinogen of class C, which includes compounds potentially carcinogenic to man.

Atrazine on the Body

  • If you inhale dust containing atrazine, some particles may settle in your lungs. Larger particles of it can settle before reaching the lungs and are coughed and swallowed.
  • If your skin comes into contact with soil or water contaminated with atrazine, a small amount can pass through the skin and into the bloodstream.
  • If you swallow food, water or soil containing atrazine, most of it will pass through the lining of your stomach and intestines and into the bloodstream.

After atrazine enters the bloodstream , it is distributed to many parts of your body.

Animal studies indicate that atrazine is altered in your body to other substances called metabolites. Some atrazine and its metabolites may enter some organs or fat, but atrazine does not accumulate or remain in the body. Most metabolites leave your body within 24 to 48 hours, mainly in the urine, or in the stool.

How can atrazine affect my health?

One of the main ways in which atrazine can affect your health is by changing the way the reproductive system works.

Studies of couples living on farms that use atrazine for weed control have found an increased risk of premature birth. These studies are difficult to interpret because most farmers were men who may have been exposed to various types of pesticides.

Atrazine has been shown to cause changes in blood hormone levels in animals that affect the ability to reproduce. Some of the specific effects seen in animals are likely to occur in humans due to biological differences between humans and these types of animals.

Atrazine also caused liver, kidney and heart damage in animals; It may cause these effects in humans, although this has not been examined.

There is insufficient information to definitively state whether atrazine causes cancer in humans.

How can families reduce the risk of exposure to atrazine?

Only certain people can use atrazine because it is a restricted-use pesticide (RUP), so most people cannot buy it freely or use it.

Since most people cannot afford to buy it for private use, one way to reduce the risk of exposure to atrazine is to avoid areas where it is being used in crops or to control weeds. You can also avoid digging or working on the soil where it has been applied.

Atrazine was found in water collected from many drinking water wells in the Midwest United States. Therefore, you can reduce the risk of exposure to it by ensuring that your water supply is free from atrazine or that it does not contain measurable levels of atrazine.

Atrazine has also been found in streams, rivers, and lakes near fields where it was applied before.

Higher amounts were found on these waterways in the spring and summer months.Therefore, you may want to not swim or drink from these water places.

If you work with atrazine in crops or weed control, you can reduce your exposure to atrazine by using it according to the instructions and by wearing appropriate protective clothing and equipment. Be sure to follow all instructions and pay attention to any warning statements.

Is there a medical exam to determine if I have been exposed to atrazine?

Specific and sensitive tests were developed to detect atrazine in the blood, fat, semen and breast milk of exposed individuals.

Because atrazine is removed from the body relatively quickly, these tests are only useful in detecting recent exposures (within 24 to 48 hours) and are not useful in detecting past exposures to atrazine.

Currently, these tests cannot be used to estimate the amount of atrazine you have been exposed to or whether adverse health effects will occur.

Why is atrazine a concern?

Atrazine Threatens Amphibians

Atrazine may protect crops and lawns from certain types of weeds, but it is a real problem for other species.

The chemical is a potent endocrine disruptor that causes immunosuppression, hermaphroditism and even complete sex reversal in male frogs in concentrations as low as 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) – well below the 3.0 ppb that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims it is safe.

This problem is particularly serious because amphibian populations worldwide are decreasing at unprecedented rates that, today, almost a third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction (albeit largely due to the chytrid fungus).

Also, atrazine has been linked to reproductive defects in fish and prostate and breast cancer in laboratory rodents. Epidemiological studies also suggest that atrazine is a human carcinogen and leads to other human health problems.

Atrazine is also a growing health problem for humans

Researchers are finding an increasing number of links between atrazine and poor human birth outcomes.

A 2009 study, for example, found a significant correlation between prenatal exposure to atrazine (mainly drinking water consumed by pregnant women) and reduced body weight in newborns.

Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of illness in babies and conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.The public health issue is a growing concern because atrazine is also the most commonly detected pesticide in American groundwater.

An extensive US Geological Survey study found atrazine in approximately 75% of stream water and about 40% of groundwater samples in the tested agricultural areas.

More recent data showed that atrazine is present in 80% of drinking water samples collected in 153 public water systems.

Atrazine is not only widely present in the environment, but it is also unusually persistent. Fifteen years after France stopped using atrazine, the chemical can still be detected there.

Every year, more than half a million pounds of atrazine falls during spraying and falls back to Earth in rain and snow, eventually infiltrating streams and groundwater and contributing to chemical water pollution.

In June 2016, the EPA released an ecological assessment draft for atrazine, which recognized the negative consequences of the pesticide on aquatic communities, including its plant, fish, amphibian and invertebrate populations.

Additional concerns extend to terrestrial ecological communities. These findings concern the pesticide industry, of course, but also many farmers who rely on atrazine to control resistant weeds.

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