Holiday Shores cases against chemical makers await ruling

Ann Knef Nov. 15, 2007, 10:17am

Judge Stack

After two years under advisement in Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack's court, six class action lawsuits against major chemical manufacturers await action.

For months Stack has indicated he is close to ruling on defense motions to dismiss the cases brought by Holiday Shores Sanitary District in 2004 against Sygenta, Drexel, Dow, United Agri Products, Supcan Agro and Makhteshinm Agan.

Holiday Shores, seeking to represent a class of other Illinois water districts, alleges atrazine made by the defendants breaks down into "degradant" chemicals which are hazardous to humans. Among other things, Holiday Shores wants to be fitted with a new charcoal system to filter out atrazine.

Atrazine, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows three parts per billion in drinking water, is the most commonly applied herbicide used by corn growers.

A spokesman for the Illinois Farm Bureau said atrazine, which is employed primarily by corn growers, has been used in the state for years and is the best no-till product. It helps conserve farm fields by preventing sediment run-off. It increases yields, reduces costs and is proven good for the environment, according to the Farm Bureau.

The EPA has thoroughly evaluated atrazine using a detailed scientific process and is "probably the most well-studied chemical," said Nancy Erickson, Natural Resources director for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

Alex Avery, director of research and education with the Center for Global Food Issues at Hudson Institute in Virginia, has said there is no data to support claims that atrazine is hazardous to human health.

"The science is non existent," Avery said in an interview last year. "Atrazine risk profile is stellar."

In the meantime, the EPA recently issued another report exonerating atrazine.

This one, "White Paper on the Potential for Atrazine to Affect Amphibian Gonadal Development," issued last month states that atrazine does not harm the reproductive health of amphibians.

"Overall, the weight-of-evidence based on these studies does not show that atrazine produces consisten, reproducible effects across the range of exposure concentrations and amphibian species tested," the newer report states.

The report goes on to state that under controlled laboratory studies of amphibians, atrazine exposure did not affect...metamorphosis, sex ratio or gonadal development.

In June 2006 the EPA concluded that the cumulative risks associated with triazine herbicides (the category atrazine is in) pose "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other...consumers."

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