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Environmentalists Continue the Struggle Against Hazardous Herbicide
(Beyond Pesticides, November 19, 2003)
The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are illegally withholding documentary evidence that the pesticide industry may have undue influence over federal health standards for atrazine, the most widely used weed-killer in the country, according to a lawsuit filed November 13 by NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council).

The NRDC lawsuit charges that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and EPA have violated the law by refusing to disclose documents regarding the nature of industry involvement in EPA's assessment of atrazine's safety. NRDC has asked the court to force these agencies to turn over the documents, as they are required to do under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). EPA announced on October 31 that it had negotiated a deal with industry that would not require any new restrictions on atrazine use.

"This is yet another example of the Bush administration letting industry write the rules behind closed doors," said NRDC attorney Aaron Colangelo. "The public has a right to know whether the government is sacrificing public health and the environment to satisfy the pesticide industry's demands."

A number of scientific studies link atrazine to high rates of prostate and other cancers in human beings and sexual deformities in frogs. Despite this scientific evidence, atrazine continues to be used heavily in the United States, especially on corn, sorghum, sugarcane and golf courses.

There have been some press reports that the White House, under heavy pressure from the pesticide industry, has been closely involved in EPA's atrazine assessment. To find out more, NRDC filed a series of FOIA requests with EPA and the White House, which have failed to produce relevant documents. In today's lawsuit, NRDC seeks to compel EPA and the White House to fulfill their basic obligations under freedom of information laws and disclose records of their communications with the pesticide industry regarding atrazine.

The European Union recently announced it will ban atrazine over the next 18 months because of its risks. The chemical already is banned in at least four European countries and is tightly restricted in Switzerland, the home country of the principle atrazine manufacturer, Syngenta.

For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ Atrazine ChemWatch Fact Sheet. Find out more about atrazine’s effect on amphibians, and see photos of frogs exposed to atrazine. Another study links atrazine with decreased sperm quality.