Trump Administration Waiving Requirement to Monitor Waterways for Hazardous Weedkiller Proving Deadly amid COVID-19 Pandemic

by Anshul Dash with Arun Balaji

Recently, the Trump Administration lifted the requirement of monitoring waterways in the Midwest for the presence of the weedkiller atrazine. Even though administration’s reason behind this action is because of “the sudden impact of COVID-19,” it is still putting a risk to the health of residents who rely on these now-unchecked waterways.

The repercussion of this decision comes at the heel of two other controversial decision made by the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Just recently, the EPA waived mercury emission and soot pollution regulations, allowing pollution to increase during the pandemic. These decisions came with the thought of increasing manufacturing capacity to support the pandemic, though it has negatively impacting thousands of lives. Because COVID-19 causes respiratory illnesses, many scientists, including the EPA’s chief itself came out in a statement claiming that “Trump’s EPA is making COVID-19 More Deadly.”

Atrazine is just 1 out of 78 pesticides that has caused respiratory conditions such as wheezing. It can also lead to birth defects and has also been linked to breast cancer as a result of its properties with disrupting endocrines. As a potential groundwater contaminant, it can affect a huge population in the Midwest if not treated properly. Just two years ago, the Environmental Working Group found more atrazine in drinking water than specified as the legal limit. Past tests have shown that atrazine levels can go high very easily if undetected from regular tests.

Atrazine has also been known for inflicting sever damage on aquatic ecosystems. It does this by causing tropical cascades and reducing the productivity of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are important for the climate as they are responsible for the transfer of carbon dioxide from the air into the ocean. It can harm frogs and increase susceptibility to chytrid fungi.

Environmental groups are arguing that this is the worst possible time to revoke a requirement as important as checking waterways because it just aggravates the already existing public health crisis due to the spread of the coronavirus. They are trying to get the attention of the Trump Administration to follow similar steps being taken in Europe to effectively banning atrazine. According to new findings, banning atrazine grants farmers economic benefits. These benefits are exactly what the world needs right now due its decline from the coronavirus pandemic.