Atrazine is an organic compound which is widely used as a herbicide. Atrazine is controversial due to its effects on nontarget species, such as on amphibians. Its use was banned from the European Union in 2004 but it remains one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S.A..
Atrazine was first used in 1959 in the United States, where it currently still is one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides, with an annual production of over 35.000 tonnes. It is mainly used in sorghum, corn and sugarcane cultivation. It is released in the environment both from production sites as from its use as a herbicide.
Atrazine has a moderate water solubility of 30 mg/l, which makes it quite mobile in the environment. It is also persistent with a half-life in water of 150 days, and an even longer one in the soil. It has a relatively low tendency to adsorb to soils or particles. Therefore, atrazine is expected to be present in surface water and groundwater. It has a low tendency to evaporate to the atmosphere and might afterwards be deposited by rainfall, although it is rapidly degraded in the atmosphere. Atrazine has a very low tendency to bioaccumulate and is therefore not expected to biomagnify through food chains. Atrazine has a moderate toxicity in crustaceans and fish; acute lethal effects can induced by concentrations above 3mg/l, although some fish and crustacean species can tolerate atrazine concentrations above 80 mg/l. Phytoplankton is more vulnerable as toxic effects occur at concentrations of 60 µg/l. There have been reports that low concentrations of only 20 µg/l could change the behaviour of amphibians. Atrazine has also been suspected to induce endocrine disrupting effects in amphibians and mammals.
Environmental standards and legislation