Atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Over 75 million pounds of it are applied to corn and other crops, many in the Midwest. Atrazine is the most common pesticide contaminant found in groundwater, surface water, and rain in the United States. A recent study has found that women living in areas where atrazine water contamination is found are more likely to experience menstrual irregularities than women living in regions where there is no contamination.

I have blogged on the adverse hormonal effects of atrazine before. It has been found to turn male frogs into females, even at low concentrations. In 2009 atrazine was also linked to low birth weight in Indiana newborns, and menstrual irregularities have been found in women exposed to atrazine through agricultural work.

In this new study, women from two different cities in Illinois were compared with women from two different cities in Vermont. Illinois has the highest rates of atrazine water contamination, though the levels found in the study were still under limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The women in the Illinois cities were almost five times more likely to report irregular periods than the Vermont women, and more than six times more likely to go more time between periods.

Emily Barrett, a reproductive health scientist at the University of Rochester in New York stated, “These types of changes to hormone concentration and ovarian function could potentially lead to problems with fertility.” The study did not look at fertility, but hopefully more studies will address this.

Atrazine is sprayed on 75 percent of corn, as well as other crops. Corn is used in so many foods, and is used to make so many different ingredients in foods. This week, start reading your food labels to discover how widespread corn is. Then, take measures to replace the largest sources of non-organic corn with organic corn in your diet. It’s worth it. We’ve got to reduce our chemical exposure. Eating organic, when possible, is a big way to do that.