06:56 PM ET 07/28/99

Group Asks EPA To Ban Weed Killer

Group Asks EPA To Ban Weed Killer
Associated Press Writer=
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Tap water across the Midwest is contaminated
by dangerously high levels of weed killer that pose a cancer risk
to bottle-fed babies, an environmental group said Wednesday.
The group's president urged the Environmental Protection Agency
to ban atrazine and noted that water utilities are spending
millions to clean chemical from drinking water.
``It shouldn't be in our water to begin with,'' said Ken Cook of
the Environmental Working Group.
Atrazine, a chemical sprayed on corn, was found in tap water in
796 towns and cities in the nation's Corn Belt, according to the
group's report. Atrazine, in high doses, has been linked to cancer.
The EPA is studying exposure to atrazine as part of a pesticide
review program and is set to complete its work by next summer, the
agency said in a statement. The results will help determine whether
tighter drinking water standards are needed.
``We are on schedule to meet all deadlines for reviewing
pesticides under the new law,'' the agency said.
Cook's organization placed a full-page ad in The New York Times
asking Vice President Gore's help in banning the pesticide. The
group also said the EPA has not abided by a new food quality law
that required the agency to keep children in mind when setting new
The group said babies consume an average of three 8-ounce
bottles each day. A mother would have to drink 33 8-ounce glasses
of water to get the same dose of atrazine, the group said.
In cities and towns with the worst contamination, said the
group's senior analyst Jane Houlihan, infants fed formula made with
contaminated tap water receive a lifetime dose in the first four
months of their lives.
Atrazine's manufacturer, Switzerland-based Novartis AG, said the
study misrepresented facts in an attempt to panic American parents.
The company pointed out that in all seven states cited, it works
with farmers, regulators, agriculture and conservation officials to
protect water supplies through projects such as buffer strips,
grass waterways and conservation tillage.
``The fact is that levels of atrazine cited in the report do not
put infants, children or adults at risk,'' said Dave Whitacre,
senior vice president of science for Novartis' U.S. operations.
``Parents have no reason to fear the safety of the drinking water
in their communities.''
Under federal safety standards, the company said, a 22-pound
toddler could drink 3,000 gallons of water each day of his life
without any risk to his health
Corn farmers say that atrazine, one of many widely used,
low-cost herbicides, is used safely.
``You can tell the study was done more with promotion and public
relations and scare in mind than with facts and science and the
real risks, or none, associated with any of these products,'' said
Bruce Knight, vice president of public policy for the National Corn
Growers Association.
The environmental group analyzed more than 127,000 tap water
sample test results over the past five years in seven states: Ohio,
Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.
Illinois had the most communities, 210, with atrazine in tap
water, the study said, while Kansas had 197, Iowa 111, Nebraska 87,
Missouri 71, Ohio 70 and Indiana 50.

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