SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - With spring crop spraying under way, concerns over safe drinking water are resurfacing in Illinois.
The Pesticide Action Network asked rural families in Illinois and three other Midwestern states to sample their drinking water, and the Illinois samples contained the highest levels of Atrazine, a weed killer used on corn crops. In Springfield, one sample exceeded the federal Environmental Protection Agency's limits.
Julia Govis, Chicago author of the book, "Who's Poisoning Our Children," grew up in rural Illinois and says she's worried about more than just drinking the water.
"You can filter it out with a carbon filter, but that doesn't account for all the other exposure that you can come in contact with. It can come through inhalation, it can come through your skin. Small children put a lot of things in their mouths."
Corn producers spray their crops at this time of year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to reduce their risk of exposure because of potential health effects.
The Pesticide Action Network is encouraging farmers to transition away from pesticide use. Linda Wells, the group's Midwest organizer, says many Midwesterners are concerned about Atrazine because of its links to cancer, birth defects and low birth-weight babies.
"The samples were taken in homes of residents in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. These were community members who were concerned about Atrazine and who wanted to see what their own exposure was."
Atrazine has been banned in Europe for almost a decade, and although its manufacturer says it is safe, Wells thinks federal and state regulators need to consider the latest scientific studies.
"All of us drink water and we deserve safe water here in the Midwest. If there are known carcinogens, it's the responsibility of the EPA and our public agencies to safeguard our water."
The samples were taken during the past two years during spring crop-spraying seasons. The initial results indicate Atrazine is used most heavily in Illinois, where applications exceed 85 pounds per square mile.
The EPA is reviewing Atrazine's safety.
An Illinois sampling-site map is online at panna.org. Information from the CDC is at ephtracking.cdc.gov, and from the EPA at federalregister.gov.