ST. LOUIS -- Steve Tillery of the law firm of Korein Tillery says the threat of the herbicide atrazine to the "environment and the health of every citizen of America" is a cause he's ready to take on.

"This issue is much bigger than a case in a court of law. This issue belongs in the court of Public Opinion; the people deserve and have a right to demand clean and uncontaminated water. Any compromise to that right is unacceptable," Tillery says.

Tillery is referring to a complaint filed by his firm in August of 2004 against six manufacturers of atrazine on behalf of Holiday Shores Sanitary District which is a community located west of Edwardsville, Ill. The two basic principals of the complaint are: 1) Atrazine is harmful to humans as consumed through dietary water; and 2) Atrazine is harmful to humans as consumed through dietary water at a level of less than three parts per billion (it is important to note that the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) goals for atrazine has been set at 3 parts per billion (ppb) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who believes that this level of protection does not cause health risks to public water systems).

The defendants in each of the six actions sought to dismiss the case in part because plaintiffs sought damages for water contamination falling below EPA contamination guidelines. However, on July 5, 2008, in a landmark decision, the Illinois Circuit Court ruled that Plaintiffs could proceed with their claims and denied defendant's motions to dismiss. The cases are currently pending in the Third Judicial Circuit of Illinois.

"We're calling on the manufacturers of atrazine to protect the public and clean-up their mess," Tillery says. Tillery points to Syngenta, a company based in Basel, Switzerland who is the largest manufacturer of atrazine (more than 90%) in the world. Available data shows that Syngenta's reported revenue from herbicides, including atrazine, exceeds $1.6 billion annually.

[Editor's Note: Syngenta offers as "as a timely and factual resource about atrazine, its history, science, benefits and the current litigation."]

What's disturbing, Tillery says, is the American taxpayers are having to pay in excess of $400 million annually to clean-up contaminated water systems caused by atrazine, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

"We have a situation where you have a foreign company who brings their product into this country, makes huge profits, contaminates our water systems, and then leaves us with the responsibility of cleaning-up their mess. That's not right," Tillery said. "Our Maximum Contaminant Level goal for atrazine in this country should be set at 0," Tillery added.

Although banned in the European Union in 2004 because of its persistent groundwater contamination, atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States with 76 million pounds of it applied each year -- predominantly in the Midwest. Recent data illustrates that over 900 water systems throughout the Midwest are contaminated with atrazine.

Atrazine's endocrine effects, carcinogenic effects and epidemiological connection to low sperm levels in men has led several researchers to call for banning atrazine in the U.S. Numerous studies on the effects of atrazine have been conducted - including studies at major universities throughout the country. Tyrone Hayes, Developmental Endocrinologist at the University of California at Berkeley-Department of Integrative Biology, has identified signs that the effects of atrazine on the sex organs of male frogs are occurring at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). Hayes has found evidence that atrazine is a teratogen, causing demasculinization in male frogs and is an estrogen disruptor.

Hayes explains, "In frogs and humans, the hormones are the same, the mechanisms are the same. So if atrazine seems to be feminizing frogs by increasing the production of estrogen, it might also be having the same effect over the production of estrogen in people." High levels of estrogen he notes, have been linked to breast cancer.

In the summer of 2001, the National Resource Defense Council learned that Syngenta had been tracking prostate cancer in its employees at its St. Gabriel, La., atrazine plant. The result was a published study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, which reported that exposed Syngenta employees had elevated rates of prostate cancer -- a rate more than three-and-a-half times higher than the Louisiana statewide average. An epidemiological study published in May 2004 found that parents working in areas of high herbicide applications are at increased risk for adverse reproductive outcomes such as infertility, poor fertilization, fetal death and congenital anomalies.

In a study conducted by the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University entitled 'Atrazine Herbicide - Best Management Practices for the Little Arkansas River Watershed' (MF-2768), it stated: "Atrazine is a low-cost-per-acre herbicide, but there may be environmental costs that should be considered when using it."

In the study, there is a chart reflecting average samplings taken from four separate locations with atrazine contamination levels far exceeding the EPA standard. Alternatives to atrazine use are also recommended in the 'Best Management Practices' portion of the study.

Tillery says he believes we must protect the long-term viability of our water systems. That includes full accountability and transparency of decisions made by the EPA.

"People assume that their governmental agencies are working to protect them and looking out for their best interests. We saw what happened with the Securities and Exchange Commission, so we need to examine how the US EPA is making decisions," Tillery says. "Contamination testing procedures are flawed, there are closed door meetings being held with herbicide manufacturers without healthcare industry officials invited. These and other practices must be looked into," Tillery adds.

Tillery points out that disease from contaminated water doesn't develop overnight.

"Contaminants damage cells little by little, it may take years, or even decades for the whole organ to fail or tests to find cancer. This is why safe water is of such importance," he says.

In conjunction with Earth Day, Tillery says he is launching a national awareness campaign dedicated to the cause 'Clean Water for America Now.' Tillery says his message is resonating with stakeholders throughout the country, and that his campaign will not rest until responsible actions are taken to protect our environment and our citizens from the effects of contaminated water systems.

"We are entitled as Americans to drink clear, clean water that doesn't make us sick. Not just a little sick, not just maybe sick, it shouldn't make us sick. That's what we should demand," Tillery said.

SOURCE: Korein Tillery via PR Newswire.