Atrazine is in the news again (e.g. ABC 7.30 Report Thursday 25th March, 60 Minutes, 21st March) and is being found in more and more water bodies in Australia, and notably Queensland in recent times. Here is where it has been found so far:
- Rainwater at a few ng/l (unpublished data from Atherton, Qld), in streams in almost all of eastern Queensland at concentrations of between one and 50 ug/l (Lewis et al 2009; Packett et al 2009),
- Great Barrier Reef lagoon waters as far offshore as we have looked (outer reef waters) at ng/l concentrations (passive sampler work, Shaw et al 2010)
- Wet season discharge conditions in the lagoon at ug/l concentrations (Lewis et al 2009),
- Groundwater of the lower Burdekin at a few ug/l (as far back as 1976 (Brodie et al 1984) and
- Tap water in Rockhampton, Mackay, Ayr, Home Hill, Innisfail at 1 ug/l (unpublished and suppressed data)
- Noosa River associated with the infamous ‘two headed fish’, fish kills and human health problems (along with other pesticides) (Matt Landos’s work),
- Victorian tap water and in streams in Tasmania.
You might say this isn’t ‘everywhere’ but that’s only because we haven’t looked ‘everywhere’. Everywhere we have looked we have found it.
All I can say is that obviously current management (i.e. APVMA federally) is not working. Given this failure of management the only solution left is to ban atrazine. This is unfortunate for farmers as atrazine is a valuable product and possibly could be kept in use if there was a competent management regime. The part on the 7.30 Report story where APVMA notes that atrazine use was banned along watercourses says it all. This will have no effect in losses from sugar application where atrazine leaks from sugarcane via drainage (sugarcane is always drained due to dislike of wet roots) and is not used in watercourses anyhow!
This is the telling point against APVMA as their review (2008) does nothing whatsoever to reduce loss of atrazine from sugarcane crops. So a review that took 13 years produced no actions which had any effect on losses from sugarcane (and I suspect other crops as well), yet the problems of loss from sugarcane were well known by then and published in the open scientific literature.
Meanwhile APVMA continues to ignore the evidence and cannot provide a satisfactory management regime for these pesticides to keep them out of our waterways. Currently the role and scope for action of APVMA is being reviewed but it unlikely any major changes to make APVMA more effective will occur.