Weed Killers By The Glass
September 1, 1995

Weed Killers By The Glass: Muncie, Indiana

Citizen Monitoring Results

Muncie drinking water is contaminated with cancer causing weed killers. Tests of city tap water found up to seven different pesticides or metabolites in a single glass. During this test period approximately 480 infants in Muncie consumed infant formula reconstituted with water contaminated with up to seven toxic weed killers (Note 1: Ershow, Abby G., and Cantor, Kenneth P. 1989. Total Water and Tapwater Intake in the United States: Population-Based Estimates of Quantities and Sources. Life Sciences Research Office; Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Bethesda, MD).

Most of these weed killers are used in corn production. Since 1985, taxpayers have subsidized Indiana corn growers at a rate of $278 million per year, for a 10-year total of $2.78 billion. Farmers in turn pay nothing to clean up the water. The pesticide industry claims that farmers' weed control cost would double if these polluting herbicides were banned. Assuming the industry claim is true, the added costs to farmers would amount to just 11 percent of the value of the subsidy taxpayers pay to these corn farmers each year.


Tests for Multiple Weed Killers


  • Seven pesticides or metabolites -- atrazine, cyanazine, metolachlor, alachlor, simazine, desethylatrazine, and desisopropylatrazine -- were found in a single sample of Alliance tap water collected on June 2, 1995. Two of these pesticides -- atrazine and cyanazine -- were found above EPA standards.
  • These seven pesticides include one pesticide classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen, four pesticides classified by EPA as possible human carcinogens, one pesticide that causes birth defects in animal studies, and four pesticides that disrupt the normal functioning of the hormone system.
  • This initial finding was confirmed by a second sample collected on July 5, 1995. This sample contained five different pesticides, atrazine, cyanazine, simazine, metolachlor, and desethylatrazine.
  • Federal drinking water standards do not account for this simultaneous exposure to multiple pesticides (or other contaminants) in drinking water, and allow cancer risks from these weed killers up to 29 times higher than the federal government allows from the same chemicals in food.


Use of 6 Major Herbicides on Indiana Corn Reached 18 Million Pounds in 1994, up 2.3 Million Pounds Since 1990


Herbicide Acres Treated, 1994 Use, 1994 (lbs.)
Acetochlor 240,000 361,000
Alachlor 1,400,000 3,005,000
Atrazine 5,300,000 7,190,000
Cyanazine 1,159,000 2,487,000
Metolachlor 2,623,000 4,911,000
Simazine 122,000 130,000

(Note 4: USDA 1995. Agricultural Chemical Usage: 1994 Field Crops Summary.)