The Austrian environment agency has discovered raised levels of the persistent pesticide atrazine in Austrian rivers, leading it to believe that some farmers may be flouting a national ban on the substance. Atrazine is a relatively cheap herbicide used particularly to protect maize crops. Sales have been restricted in many EU countries because the chemical tends to contaminate drinking water. Austria removed the substance from its list of permitted pesticides in 1995 on precautionary environmental grounds, according to Wilhelm Vogel, a water monitoring expert at the environment agency. However, an evaluation by the environment and agriculture ministries of data gathered between 1992 and 1998 has shown raised atrazine concentrations in eleven Austrian rivers, the agency said today. Mr Vogel told ENDS Daily that the levels were between 0.2 and 0.3 micrograms per litre (ug/l). While some of the atrazine found is explained by its persistence, and some could have come from neighbouring countries where it is not banned, the environment agency has noticed that the highest levels occur in April and May, which Mr Vogel says is consistent with "a very small number" of local farmers spraying the banned chemical. The agency plans to try to curb the illegal use of atrazine through random sampling of soil, plants and pesticides being sprayed, as well as more closely monitoring border controls to prevent import of the substance which is not sold in Austria.
Austrian environment agency, tel: +43 1 313 040.
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