Atrazine Weed Killer Linked to Birth Defect: Study

A study by University of Washington (Seattle) researchers indicates that a certain type of birth defect may be linked to the weed killer atrazine.

The study is to be presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Chicago, and indicates that atrazine may cause some cases of a birth defect known as gastroschisis, an abdominal wall defect which causes some of an infant’s organs, usually intestines, to develop outside of the body. Syngenta Corporation, which manufactures the herbicide, vehemently reject the study’s findings, despite the fact that it is at least the third such study to link atrazine to birth defects in recent years.

Atrazine (ethylamine and isopropylamine) is a widely used herbicide, with more than 70 million pounds used in agriculture every year in the U.S. The weed killer has been banned by the European Union due to how easily it contaminates waterways and drinking water supplies. It has also been held in suspicion by critics due to its effects on species such as amphibians, and the growing body of evidence that it causes a variety of birth defects.

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Researchers looked at 805 cases of children born with gastroschisis between 1987 and 2006, and 3,616 infants born without defects were used as a control group. They found that gastrochisis was more common among infants born to mothers who lived within 15.5 miles of a water body that was found to have high levels of atrazine contamination. They also found that the closer the mother lived to the contaminated water source, the more likely the risk of a birth defect, and that the defects were more prevalent among mothers who conceived in the spring, when atrazine use is at its highest.

Syngenta Corp. released a statement dismissing the link between atrazine and birth defects, claiming that the study results are not credible. “A large number of rigorous scientific animal studies have consistently shown that atrazine does not cause birth defects and does not cause reproductive effects,” the company said in a statement.

However, critics point out that the new study is the latest in a series of studies by different groups that have found links between atrazine use and the rate of birth defects. Even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry indicates that atrazine at high levels causes birth defects in animals.

A 2007 study by Indiana researchers published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgeryfound that gastrochisis and other defects occurred at a higher rate in Indiana in locations where atrazine was heavily used. Another study published in 2009 in Acta Paediatricafound that the risk of nine different types of birth defect nationwide could be linked to atrazine.

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2 Comments

  • c evansJuly 15, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    i am not a farmer but i live around them and everyone uses atrazine... i am trying to find out why i have painful burning neuropathy along with menopause...i am on lidocaine patches, neurontin and celexa, but cannot get rid of the pain. i am curious about your story...what did you do>? i am trying to find out why i have this and how to get rid of it...my neurologist has checked everything she [Show More]i am not a farmer but i live around them and everyone uses atrazine... i am trying to find out why i have painful burning neuropathy along with menopause...i am on lidocaine patches, neurontin and celexa, but cannot get rid of the pain. i am curious about your story...what did you do>? i am trying to find out why i have this and how to get rid of it...my neurologist has checked everything she could and still, i have no results...i am thinking that i somehow got exposed to toxic chemical...i know that in the county that i live in is a hot bed of atrazine runoff...i am an avid hiker...

  • AprilJune 10, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I am a sheep farmer in eastern Colorado. Less than 15 feet away from opening my gate the local Co-op was spraying my land after filing encroachment papers. Less than two month later I got cancer on my nose. The wind blows north, east all the time and the neighbors land is west and north of me. For 6 years I have had strange symtoms of Menopase with not just the normal hot flashes but nerve re[Show More]I am a sheep farmer in eastern Colorado. Less than 15 feet away from opening my gate the local Co-op was spraying my land after filing encroachment papers. Less than two month later I got cancer on my nose. The wind blows north, east all the time and the neighbors land is west and north of me. For 6 years I have had strange symtoms of Menopase with not just the normal hot flashes but nerve renching stinging when haveing a hot flash. I believe it is from the chemical atrazine. There was another woman who was a farm wife out here and her husbband used atrazine all the time. She described her menopase the same way as mine and her husband died of cancer and now she has ovaran cancer.

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