Atrazine in Water: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

Atrazine is the 2nd most widely used herbicide in the world and the most common found in water. Find out about the dangers of Atrazine-contaminated drinking water and how to protect yourself.

Updated: January 29, 2024
Jeremiah Zac


On June 15, 2023, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. brought up the topic of harmful chemicals in the public water supply while making a guest appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

He referenced an experiment performed by biologists at a California University where Atrazine, a widely used herbicide, was introduced to a tank full of frogs at a concentration far less than what the EPA permits into the public drinking water supply. 

As a result of this experiment, 75% of the frogs were chemically castrated.

Flashback to 2017, when Alex Jones commented on the negative effects Atrazine has on human fertility. 

Most of his claims were largely ignored at the time.

Today, Atrazine is banned in the EU due to its proven health defects.

In the United States, it is the second most used herbicide behind Monsanto’s Glyphosate and is the most commonly found chemical contaminant in water.

So, what is the truth about the dangers of Atrazine?

Let’s explore.

What is Atrazine?

Atrazine is a synthetic chemical created by Syngenta and is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It is primarily used on crops such as corn and sugarcane to prevent the growth of weeds but can also be used on highways, railroads, and evergreen tree farms.

How does Atrazine contaminate the water supply?

The EPA estimates that around 70 million pounds of Atrazine are sprayed into the soil each year in the Spring, where it is to be broken down and absorbed by weeds. However, during rainfall, Atrazine can travel over 1,000 km from the point of application and pollute water sources such as lakes, streams, and underground aquifers, where it eventually makes its way into public drinking water systems.

When in water, Atrazine breaks down much slower, which is why it is the most commonly detected herbicide in water sources. In late Spring and early Summer, the highest levels of Atrazine can be detected in tap water.

The Environmental Protection Agency is the federal agency responsible for monitoring contamination levels in drinking water and assigns specific, permittable levels of concentration for each known water contaminant.

For Atrazine, the permitted level is three parts per billion (3 ppb), which is equivalent to one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The EPA determines these levels by employing laboratories to conduct tests, identifying at which level each contaminant will cause harm to humans if consumed.

However, other studies have suggested that Atrazine is harmful at much lower levels than what the EPA permits.

What are the effects of Atrazine on humans?

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment conducted studies determining that Atrazine consumption increases the risk of developing cancer at as low as 0.15 ppb, far below the EPA recommended level of 3 ppb.

The study referenced by RFK during the Joe Rogan interview found that 30 out of 40 male frogs exposed to Atrazine at 2.5 ppb became chemically castrated. Four of them grew female genitalia and began producing eggs, highlighting the significant effect Atrazine has on hormones and fertility.

In 2011, a study performed by a Vermont state epidemiologist found higher menstrual irregularity among women drinking Atrazine-contaminated water in Illinois as compared to those in rural Vermont.

In 2013, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln found a higher risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma among people who consumed tap water contaminated with Atrazine.

Atrazine has been banned in Europe since the 1980s.

What cities and states have been most affected by Atrazine contamination?

In 2015, Atrazine was detected in over 800 drinking water systems across 19 states, affecting 7.6 million Americans at levels that are known to cause health problems.

In Texas, 237 water systems serving 3 million people were found to have high levels of Atrazine.

In Kansas, 192 water systems serving 1 million people were found to have high levels of Atrazine.

Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio also detected high levels of Atrazine in their water systems

The truth is that if Atrazine is found in your water, it is likely at a level that is harming you. It is important for homes to address the possibility of Atrazine being in their water supply rather than waiting for the EPA to tighten the contamination regulations for Atrazine.

What are the best Atrazine water filters and purification methods?

Because Atrazine is a chemical compound, it needs specific purification methods to address its nature. Methods used for killing bacteria, such as boiling or UV radiation, will be ineffective against a chemical compound.

For Atrazine, the most effective methods of purification are activated carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, or distillation.

Activated carbon binds to chemicals extremely effectively. A home gravity filter such as a Berkey contains large activated carbon blocks that absorb chemicals as they pass through, leaving the water purified and clean.

Reverse osmosis operates by using a semi-permeable membrane, which essentially allows only water molecules to pass through; all other contaminants are left behind on the other side of the membrane, leaving the water free of chemicals.

Distillation is one of the oldest and most effective methods of purifying water. Distillation effectively leaves all contaminants behind through the process of evaporation and condensation, resulting in only H20 molecules, the purest form of water. Home water distillers, such as the Mini Classic by Purewater, are effective at removing all contaminants.

The best approach to ensuring clean drinking water at home is to have your own home purification system, whether it's activated carbon, distillation, reverse osmosis, or others. While the EPA does set standards for public drinking water systems, some chemicals, as we've seen with Atrazine, are still harmful even at EPA standard levels.

How to test for Atrazine in water

The EWG, an independent non-profit organization providing helpful environmental information to consumers, hosts a national tap water database that can help identify concentration levels of specific contaminants in the United States. Check it out to see if Atrazine is found in your area.

Home testing kits are useful for detecting whether Atrazine is present in the water supply. For more detailed results, a laboratory testing service may be useful and is conducted by sending a sample.

Thank you for taking the time to read our article on addressing Atrazine in water. We'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. If you've found this article to be useful and are interested in learning more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

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I'm Jeremiah, the owner of World Water Reserve. I'm a writer and researcher with a particular interest in sustainability and rural living, water scarcity, and innovative water purification methods. I utilize my multimedia and communication experience in the NGO and humanitarian fields to bring light to important topics. My passion is to educate others on the reality of the global water crisis and on ways to sustain themselves and their families in the midst of it.
Jeremiah Zac