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Conclusions and Recommendations

Efforts to prevent contamination of tap water with cancer-causing weed killers have largely failed. Monitoring by EWG, state officials and the pesticide industry all show continued levels of contamination with multiple cancer causing weed killers at levels that are not safe for infants and children. Indeed, in dozens of communities, particularly small rural towns, risks from exposure to triazine herbicides is many times the new cancer risk benchmark in the FQPA.

We believe that Americans have a right to tap water that is entirely free of pesticides -- and that they will support sensible measures to achieve this goal.

  • EWG recommends an immediate ban on all triazine herbicides. In conjunction with this act, the EPA should announce a policy of phasing out all pesticides that contaminate tap water supplies. The first round of this phase-out should specifically target all of the acetanilide herbicides currently found in tap water, including alachlor, acetochlor and metolachlor.

    The companies that make these pesticides claim that the costs of eliminating their products will be excessive. In the past such industry claims have proven exaggerated. But under FQPA, EPA is required to base its regulations first and foremost on public health considerations. EPA cannot approve the use of a chemical that forces the public to take health risks just because pesticide companies and farmers make a lot of money selling and using the product, unless the agency explicitly informs the public of the risk under the new "right to know" provisions of the FQPA. And, in no case can the pesticide fail the safety standard in FQPA as it specifically applies to infants and children.
  • The farming community should adopt a goal of controlling weeds without contaminating drinking water. This objective is readily achievable with existing herbicides and other weed control techniques, and should not result in any significant additional costs to America's farmers.
  • The EPA must scrupulously implement the Food Quality Protection Act. This will require a strict one in one million cancer risk level from all exposures to carcinogens, including the triazines, with explicit consideration of the higher exposure relative to their size, and the special vulnerability of infants.