'Independent Panel: EPA Underestimates Atrazine's Cancer Risk'

An independent EPA science panel has taken issue with EPA's longstanding conclusion that Atrazine, the second most widely used pesticide on US farms, is not likely to cause cancer.

'Atrazine is the second most widely used pesticide on US farms. According to its maker, the Swiss agrichemical giant Syngenta, US sales of it are booming. Does it cause cancer?

The EPA, which regulates pesticide use, has been operating under the assumption that the chemical is 'not likely to be a human carcinogen.' But in 2009, the agency launched what it called a 'comprehensive new evaluation of the pesticide atrazine to determine its effects on humans.' As part of the process, it charged a panel made up of independent scientists and public health experts to 'evaluate the pesticide's potential cancer and non-cancer effects.'

Last week, the EPA released the minutes of the panel's final meeting, which took place July 26-28. Its conclusions were stark. The panel criticized the EPA for lumping all forms of cancer together in its atrazine assessment, noting that 'it would be useful and appropriate to make conclusions for individual cancers as opposed to making a blanket determination for cancer in general.' It then gave a list of cancers for which there is 'suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential': ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia, and thyroid cancer. For other cancers—prostate cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, esophageal cancers, and childhood cancers—the panel found that 'there is inadequate evidence' to determine whether or not atrazine is a cause.'

Tom Philpott reports for Mother Jones November 7, 2011.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011