Atrazine is an agricultural chemical that contaminates surface and groundwater sources due to runoff from crop fields (namely corn and soybean).
Here, we’ve shared the 3 best methods of reducing or removing atrazine in your drinking water at home.
📌 Key Takeaways:
- Atrazine is a herbicide that’s used to control weeds in agriculture.
- When ingested in drinking water, atrazine has several known health risks, including internal organ damage, reproductive issues, and possible increased cancer risk.
- The best methods of removing atrazine from water are with activated carbon block filters, reverse osmosis systems, and water distillers.
Table of Contents
🤔 What Is Atrazine & Where Does It Come From?
Atrazine is a manmade herbicide that’s used in fields growing row crops such as sorghum, sugar cane, asparagus, maize, and pineapple, with the purpose of controlling pre- and post-emergence grassy and broadleaf weeds.
The company that primarily manufactures atrazine is Syngenta. Despite its known health risks, and despite being banned in Europe and other parts of the world, atrazine is still one of the most widely used agricultural chemicals in the US today.
Drinking water supplies may contain low levels of atrazine, especially in rural, farming communities. Atrazine contaminates drinking water through agricultural runoff – when rain or flooding washes chemicals off fields into natural water sources.
Most water treatment plants don’t have specialist filtration equipment that can reduce or remove atrazine from their public drinking water, so low concentrations of this organic compound are commonly found in treated tap water supplies across the country.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a legal limit for atrazine in treated tap water of 3 parts per billion (PPB).
🩺 Potential Health Effects of Atrazine
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the potential health effects of atrazine contamination.
The difficulty is that atrazine is often used in combination with other agricultural chemicals and organic pollutants, so it’s not always clear when a particular health effect is specific to atrazine or another pesticide or herbicide that a person has been exposed to.
Some of the known atrazine effects, as listed in an ATSDR report, are:
- Reproductive system damage
- Damage to the liver, kidneys, and heart
- Hormone changes that reduce the ability to reproduce
- Increased risk of birth defects
- Low birth weight and slow fetal growth
- Developmental delays in children
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment found that just 0.15 PPB of atrazine in tap water increases a person’s lifetime risk of developing cancer.
The only good news is that atrazine isn’t a cumulative toxicant, meaning that it doesn’t build up in the body – it’s expelled within 24-48 hours in the urine.
However, while it’s in your bloodstream, atrazine has the potential to cause long-term health effects, especially if you’re exposed to the herbicide in your drinking water over a long period.
🧪 How To Test For Atrazine In Water
Atrazine doesn’t have a smell or taste, and it doesn’t change the color or appearance of water, so you won’t know if you’re drinking it without conducting a water test.
You won’t find a DIY test kit that can detect atrazine. It’s not a well-known or common contaminant like lead or chlorine, so presently, only specialist laboratories provide water tests for this herbicide.
To test for atrazine with a laboratory water test, follow these steps:
- Order the test and wait to receive the kit in the post.
- Take a sample (or samples) of your water in the included collection bottle.
- Send the sample back to the laboratory.
- Wait for your test results. They’ll usually be sent to the email address that you used to make the order.
If atrazine is a known problem contaminant in your area, your local authority might have a system that tests for atrazine in residential water samples at a reduced fee or for free. Check your state’s or authority’s website to see if this applies to you.
Want to avoid spending money on a test? If you receive a city drinking water supply, check your most recent Water Quality Report or ask your water utility to provide the latest test results for atrazine in their treated tap water.
✅ How to Reduce Atrazine In Drinking Water
Here, we’ve shared the best 3 methods for the removal of atrazine from drinking water at home:
1) Activated Carbon Block Water Filter
Atrazine removal effectiveness: 70-99.99%
Activated carbon block filters use a process called adsorption to remove atrazine and other organic compounds from tap water, including chlorine, pesticides, and herbicides. This improves water’s taste, smell, and health properties.
Some activated carbon filters can remove up to 99.99% of atrazine. The adsorption efficiency of an activated carbon block filter depends on a few factors, including:
- The initial atrazine concentration
- The surface area of the filter media
- The quality of the filter system
You can find activated carbon filters in a variety of systems, including water filter pitchers, countertop water filters, and under-sink filtration systems. If you want to remove atrazine from your whole home drinking water supply, find a whole-house water filtration system with a carbon filter.
The average cost of an activated carbon block filter is $50-$200, depending on the filter type and size, and whether or not it’s combined with other filter media.
2) Reverse Osmosis System
Atrazine removal effectiveness: >99.99%
Reverse osmosis combines two highly effective methods of atrazine removal: carbon block filtration and membrane separation.
Most RO systems use an activated carbon filter as the second filtration stage. They also use a semi-permeable membrane, which can near-eliminate atrazine and all other dissolved solids by blocking their passage, allowing only water molecules to pass through their tiny pores.
The average size of atrazine particles is 0.2 microns. Reverse osmosis systems have an average membrane pore size of 0.0001 microns, meaning that they can effectively trap atrazine in the RO chamber and flush them out of the system with wastewater.
If you want to protect your family from virtually all tap water contaminants, including atrazine and other agricultural pesticides and herbicides, a reverse osmosis system is the best solution for you.
The most popular types of RO systems are under-sink systems and countertop units, which cost around $300-$650 on average.
3) Water Distiller
Atrazine removal effectiveness: >99.99%
Like reverse osmosis systems, water distillers purify water by removing up to 99.99% of all impurities, including atrazine.
A water distiller works by boiling water until it evaporates, then condenses the vapor into a separate container. The impurities in the water are retained in the boiling chamber, being unable to vaporize and condense with the water molecules.
Alongside atrazine, distillation removes or kills chlorine, heavy metals, chemicals, microorganisms like bacteria, and other organic molecules.
However, the big setback of this point-of-use water treatment method is that it’s a slow process, taking around 5 hours to produce a single 1-gallon batch of purified water. So, if you want purified water on demand, a water distiller isn’t the best choice.
Most countertop water distillers cost $250-$400.
🥇 Which Water Filters Are Best For Atrazine Removal?
Since all the atrazine removal methods are capable of reducing up to 99.99% of this contaminant, the best type of water treatment for atrazine depends on what you personally prefer.
For instance, if your budget is flexible and you want an on-demand solution for reducing atrazine concentrations and anything else that might be in your water, you’ll be best off with a reverse osmosis system.
But if you have a smaller budget or you just don’t want to spend a fortune on an atrazine removal solution, consider a filter that uses activated carbon block media.
Ask yourself the following questions when you’re considering your options:
- What’s my budget? How much can I afford to spend upfront, and what’s the maximum amount I want to spend per year on filter changes?
- Am I only concerned about atrazine in drinking water, or do I want to remove other contaminants alongside this herbicide?
- Do I prefer to filter my water on-demand, or am I happy to wait for my water to be filtered slowly?
- What are my installation preferences and how much maintenance am I willing to do?
Look for water filters that have third-party testing for their contaminant removal abilities. If your tap water contains very high atrazine concentrations, test your water before and after filtration to check that the treatment method has worked.