Huffington Post: EPA Fails To Inform Public About Weed-Killer In Drinking Water
Why should you care? Because researchers have found "There is an apparent overlap between areas in the USA where the herbicide, atrazine (ATZ), is heavily used and obesity-prevalence maps of people with a BMI over 30."
Authors of a study that looked closely at this relationship explain,
Given that herbicides act on photosystem II of the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts, which have a functional structure similar to mitochondria, we investigated whether chronic exposure to low concentrations of ATZ might cause obesity or insulin resistance by damaging mitochondrial function.They conducted a rat experiment to see exactly what happened to mitochondria in mammals exposed to this herbicide. You can read the full study here:
Chronic Exposure to the Herbicide, Atrazine, Causes Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Insulin Resistance. Lim S, et al. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5186. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005186
This study found "Chronic administration of ATZ [atrazine] decreased basal metabolic rate, and increased body weight, intra-abdominal fat and insulin resistance without changing food intake or physical activity level".
The effect was worsened in rats fed a "high fat diet" (which we will look at more closely further on in this post.)
When the researchers looked at the mitochondria of the rats exposed to atrazine, they found
Mitochondria in skeletal muscle and liver of ATZ-treated rats were swollen with disrupted cristae. ATZ blocked the activities of oxidative phosphorylation complexes I and III, resulting in decreased oxygen consumption. It also suppressed the insulin-mediated phosphorylation of Akt [emphasis mine].The "high fat diet" fed the rats--which worsened the effect of this herbicide on obesity--is worth a look. This "high fat" diet was made up of
These results suggest that long-term exposure to the herbicide ATZ might contribute to the development of insulin resistance and obesity, particularly where a high-fat diet is prevalent.
33.0% shortening, 7.0% corn oil, 10.0% sucrose, 13.2% dextrose, 5.0% cornstarch, 5.0% cellulose and 20.0% casein (by weight).So it was in fact a high transfat and Omega 6 oil diet that was very rich in sugar. This is a very unhealthy diet quite apart from the fat percentage.
The HuffPost article reports that water customers in some Midwestern cities were sent reports of atrazine levels in their water that underreported actual levels by a factor of 10. According to the article:
based on the quarterly tests, residents of Mt. Olive, Ill., were told that the highest level of atrazine in their drinking water last year was 2 ppb. However, the EPA data shows a spike in June of 16.47 ppb. The same year, residents of McClure, Ohio, were told that the highest level of atrazine in their drinking water was 3.4 ppb. The EPA data shows a spike in June 2008 of more than ten times that amount -- 33.83 ppb.The states where the highest levels have been reported are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas.
The EPA insists that atrazine poses no public health threat, though male frogs exposed to this herbicide have been known to produce eggs.
Perhaps, the levels of this herbicide might be safe, were they the only persistent organic pollutants (POPs) the public was exposed. But this chemical is only one of the POPs mixing in our blood streams. It joins detectable levels of bisphenol-a, the fertility-impairing organic fluorine compounds that leach from nonstick pans, the birth control pill hormones and pharmaceutical drugs that have leaked into public water supplies, and the pesticide residues that we get from the foods we import from all over the world.
These pollutants in our blood stream probably work synergistically. So the combined effect of all these chemicals may be far more destructive than that of each chemical in isolation.
Obviously, those who will show the strongest impacts from this exposure fall into two groups. The people with the greatest exposure: those who work with these chemicals or live in the most polluted neighborhoods, and those who have genes that already make them prone to insulin resistance and mitochondrial dysfunction. This latter group includes many people with family histories of Type 2 Diabetes.
We know that young, slim relatives of people with Type 2 diabetes often already have signs of mitochondrial dysfunction and higher than normal insulin resistance. (Details, HERE). When these people drink water that contains additional damaging factors like this herbicide they are likely to experience an escalation in insulin resistance,and as we know, as insulin resistance rises, so does post-meal blood sugar, hunger levels, and eventually, weight.
Read the HuffPost article, and if you live in one of the regions discuss, demand that your municipal authorities tell citizens the truth and let the EPA know that you do not want yourself or your children drinking water with detectable levels of a herbicide known to promote insulin resistance and obesity.
UPDATE: September 2, 2009: More insight on how the manufacturer of atrazine herbicide has used its influence to get the EPA to declare atrazine safe despite the evidence here:
HuffPost: Syngenta, Maker Of Weed-Killer Atrazine, Wants Lobbying Documents Excluded From Class-Action Lawsuit