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Common Herbicide Linked to Increased Birth Defect Risk

A recent study found mothers exposed to the widely used herbicide atrazine face a nearly doubled risk of having a child with choanal atresia, a rare defect of the nasal cavity.

herbicide Atrazine being sprayed on crops by farmerThe findings, published in late September in the Journal of Pediatrics, raise concern about the herbicide, which is commonly used on U.S. crops, particularly corn. Atrazine has already been banned in the European Union due to its potential dangers, but it remains the most common herbicide in the U.S.

Why has America failed to take the precautions much of Europe has?

Study: More Herbicide = More Risk

The study examined a sample of babies born in Texas between 1999 and 2008. It found mothers who lived in counties with increased exposure to atrazine were 1.79 times more likely to have a baby born with choanal atresia or choanal stenosis, a similar, less severe defect. The higher the rate of exposure to the herbicide, the more likely the woman was to have a child with one of the defects, according to researchers.

Choanal atresia occurs when all or part of the nasal cavity is blocked due to malformed growth. Typically, one or more emergency surgeries are required to open the airways so a baby can breathe freely.

More Prevalent Than You Might Think

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains trace amounts are not dangerous to human health. But still, it might seem shocking to learn many Americans drink water containing atrazine every time they turn on the faucet in their home.

A 2010 study that examined 153 drinking water supplies in agricultural areas found traces of atrazine in 80% of them.  The study, released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, also found atrazine in 75% of stream water tested and 40% of groundwater samples taken in agricultural areas.

Still a Widespread Substance

Atrazine is most commonly used in the Midwestern U.S. It remains popularlikely because it is both cheap and effective at killing invasive plants. Yet other nations that have banned atrazine are not facing famine; agriculture has continued unabated. Why has America not taken the same path?

Do you worry about the potential effects herbicides might have on your health, or the health of your unborn child? If you do, share this with your friends and family to make more people aware of the risks associated with the chemicals sprayed on the foods we eat.


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