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Pesticides and Herbicides in Tap Water

Water treatment facilities haven’t kept up with the steady increase in contaminants resulting from new technologies like alternative disinfectants, increased use of pesticides, herbicides and the like.


Contamination of water resources is one of the most damaging and widespread environmental effects of agricultural production. Drinking water is vulnerable to pollution by agricultural chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers, as well as their metabolites.

The widespread use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture results in the chemical runoff of these toxic substances to lakes and rivers. In many communities these chemicals directly contaminate the source water supply. Pesticides can affect human health and the environment depending on how much chemical is present and the length and frequency of exposure. In large amounts, some pesticides have been shown to cause long-term health effects such as cancer and organ damage in laboratory testing.

Recent pesticide tests establish the widespread presence of pesticide residues on conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables and in tap water. In 2011 USDA analyzed samples from 5 community drinking water systems that use surface water such as reservoirs, lakes and rivers as their water sources. Tests of 119 samples taken after treatment detected 34 pesticides or their metabolites. The toxic herbicide atrazine or its metabolites were found in over 99 percent of samples. The herbicides tebuthiuron, 2,4-D, simizine and metolachlor were detected in more than half of the samples.

One study sheds light on the grave situation in which our ignorance places us. Researchers installed sophisticated under-the-sink filters in a number of homes served by a water system meeting all current standards for water treatment, including filtration and disinfection. Then they tracked the number of illnesses in these homes, as well as the illnesses in homes served by the same water system but which lacked the sophisticated filters. What the researchers found was as surprising as it was troubling: significantly higher rates of people who did not have the filters became sick compared with those whose water was filtered.

As a result of the extent of contamination in drinking water, the World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined that a preventative management approach be taken to ensure water is safe to drink and not wait for public authorities to finally address the issue of widespread contamination.

Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers


Atrazine has been used widely in South Africa for the past 45 years but was banned for use in Europe in 2003. European countries, including Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands, do not allow the herbicide to be used within their borders. Atrazine is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC), interfering with hormone activity. EPA acknowledges that atrazine is an endocrine disrupting chemical. read more...


Use of alachlor as a herbicide has been banned in the European Union but is a widely used herbicide applied to Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, groundnuts, maize, pineapples, potatoes, soya beans, sugar cane and sunflower seed in the South Africa.

Glyphosate (Roundup) in SA: unregulated and contaminating our water and soil

Some countries like El Salvador, Canada and Denmark have banned Glyphosate is a widely used nonselective herbicide with agricultural and nonagricultural uses.

Studies conducted in both the USA and Europe have detected high concentrations of both glyphosate and its main breakdown product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in groundwater sources, with considerable implications for drinking water supplies;

According to Gareth Jones, a researcher with the ACB, "although our National Water Act requires the Minister of Water Affairs to establish systems to monitor and protect the health of our water resources. Glyphosate has, up until now, been overlooked for study. South Africa has not even set a maximum residue level for glyphosate in water."

Health Risk News Reports:

Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells

Used in gardens, farms, and parks around the world, the weed killer Roundup contains an ingredient that can suffocate human cells in a laboratory, researchers say -

Roundup: Birth Defects Caused By World's Top-Selling Weedkiller, Scientists Say

Glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals.

Roundup are contributing to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

A new peer-reviewed scientific review paper has been released in the US stating that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup are contributing to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

In many independent studies glyphosate has been related to birth defects, reproduction failure and deformities in laboratory animal.

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