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SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California today listed atrazine — the second-most widely used pesticide in the United States — under Proposition 65 as a chemical known to be linked to birth defects, reduced male fertility and reproductive toxicities in women. Products containing atrazine will now require a warning label before they can be sold in the state.

“This is an important action that California’s taken: ensuring its residents know about the serious risks associated with a very common pesticide,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’ll be a strong incentive for users to switch to safer forms of weed control.”

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael D. Heckman.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael D. Heckman.

“Scientists have warned about the hormone-altering effects of this toxic farm poison for years, so this movement by California is welcome,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “People have a right to know that risky farm chemicals like atrazine can cause severe reproductive health problems.”

This decision comes amid mounting scientific evidence of the dangers of atrazine. A new analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency in June concluded that atrazine is harming many species of plants and animals at concentrations commonly found in the environment. Late last year the California chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, distinguished atrazine researcher Dr. Tyrone Hayes, and 19 other scientists and health professionals recommended that California lower the allowable exposure levels for atrazine.

About 80 million pounds of atrazine are used in the United States each year, contaminating ground, surface and drinking water. Atrazine — or its break down materials — was found in approximately 75 percent of stream water and about 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas tested in an extensive U.S. Geological Survey study. In people, atrazine exposure correlates with increased risks of thyroid cancer, reproductive harm and birth defects. For example, a recent study showed that children of mothers exposed to atrazine had an increased risk of life-threatening birth defects.

Among wildlife, amphibians are particularly vulnerable to atrazine’s health effects because their permeable skins absorb contaminants from agricultural runoff and atrazine’s population-level impacts on these sensitive species are unknown. Numerous studies have shown that atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes male frogs even at concentrations lower than the level allowed in drinking water by the EPA.

This listing from California, under Proposition 65, also includes the closely related pesticides propazine and simazine as well as the breakdown products des-ethyl atrazine (DEA), des-isopropyl atrazine (DIA) and 2,4-Diamino-6-chloro-s-triazine (DACT).

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