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Protect America’s Wildlife and Waterways From Toxic Pesticides

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Dangerous pesticides in American waterways and water supplies pose significant, needless threats to wildlife and human health. You can help reverse this toxic tide.

The Center for Biological Diversity is working hard to reduce the damaging impacts of pesticides on our country’s rivers, streams and animals and plants — as well as human health. We need your help to tell Congress to keep these chemicals out of our water. Send a letter demanding that our wildlife and waterways get stronger protections from a commonly used weed-killer, atrazine.

It’s urgent that we act now, because atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide contaminant of ground, surface and drinking water. 

Find out more about the Center’s work to protect wildlife and people from toxics, and check out all our broader work to protect endangered species and biodiversity.

How Pesticides Hurt
More than 2 billion pounds of pesticides are sold each year for use in the United States. Many of them have been shown to contribute to the loss of native fish and amphibian populations and cause major bird kills. Pesticides are a particularly dire threat to wildlife species that are already teetering on the brink of extinction.

Many EPA-approved pesticides are also linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and other serious health effects in people — particularly children, the elderly, farm families and farmworkers. Emerging science indicates that these chemicals have effects on future generations, so exposures today can harm generations to come.

Help Us Ban Toxic Pesticides
The commonly used weed-killer atrazine is a toxic herbicide that threatens imperiled frogs, other wildlife and people across the United States.  Atrazine is a powerful endocrine disruptor. It interferes with natural hormone functions, inhibiting the reproduction, development and growth of wildlife and humans.  It’s also one of the pesticides most frequently found in water supplies across the United States.

It’s time to get this poison out of our waterways. Please send this letter to tell Congress to protect our waterways and wildlife from pesticides.

Stop the Industry Rollback
The pesticide lobby and agribusiness are pushing a bill to eliminate protections for waterways from the harmful effects of pesticides. They want to rewrite the Clean Water Act to allow the unrestricted application of pesticides to waters throughout the nation.

This radical revision of our clean-water laws, H.R. 872, has already passed through the right-wing House of Representatives. House Republicans have also attempted a legislative trick to tack environmental rollbacks onto unrelated spending bills. But we have the chance to stop this irresponsible polluter bill in the Senate.

The EPA has also proposed a pesticides permit that would regulate applications on, over or near waterways throughout the country. The agency is required by the Endangered Species Act to consult with wildlife experts to ensure this pesticide permit doesn’t harm imperiled wildlife in waterways. Protections under the Endangered Species Act offer strong protections for our most endangered wildlife, while protecting human health by reducing toxic chemicals in our environment.

Wildlife experts have told the EPA that its pesticide permit threatens to jeopardize numerous imperiled wildlife species — including chinook and coho salmon, steelhead trout and orcas (killer whales). Worse yet, this “Pesticides General Permit” is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 33 endangered and threatened species.

We can and must do better. Please send this letter to tell your senators and the EPA to protect our waterways and wildlife from pesticides.

Species in Trouble

No group of animals has a higher rate of endangerment than amphibians. Scientists estimate that a third or more of all the roughly 6,300 known species of amphibians are at risk of extinction. Frogs, toads and salamanders are disappearing because of habitat loss, water and air pollution, climate change, ultraviolet light exposure, introduced exotic species and disease. Because of their sensitivity to environmental changes, vanishing amphibians should be viewed as the canary in the global coal mine, signaling subtle yet radical ecosystem changes that could ultimately claim many other species, including humans.


Globally, 21 percent of the total evaluated reptiles in the world are deemed endangered or vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN — 594 species — while in the United States, 32 reptile species are at risk, about 9 percent of the total. Island reptile species have been dealt the hardest blow, with at least 28 island reptiles having died out since 1600. But scientists say that island-style extinctions are creeping onto the mainlands because human activities fragment continental habitats, creating “virtual islands” as they isolate species from one another, preventing interbreeding and hindering populations’ health. The main threats to reptiles are habitat destruction and the invasion of nonnative species, which prey on reptiles and compete with them for habitat and food.

Birds occur in nearly every habitat on the planet and are often the most visible and familiar wildlife to people across the globe. Declining bird populations confirm that profound changes are occurring on our planet in response to human activities. A 2009 report on the state of birds in the United States found that 251 (31 percent) of the 800 species in the country are of conservation concern. Globally, BirdLife International estimates that 12 percent of known 9,865 bird species are now considered threatened, with 192 species, or 2 percent, facing  an “extremely high risk” of extinction in the wild.

Increasing demand for water, the damming of rivers throughout the world, the dumping and accumulation of various pollutants, and invasive species make aquatic ecosystems some of the most threatened on the planet. The American Fisheries Society has classified 700 species of freshwater fish in North America as imperiled, amounting to 39 percent of all such fish on the continent. Across the globe, 1,851 species of fish — 21 percent of all fish species evaluated — were deemed at risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2010, including more than a third of sharks and rays.

Invertebrates, from butterflies to mollusks to earthworms to corals, are vastly diverse — and though no one knows just how many invertebrate species exist, they’re estimated to account for about 97 percent of the total species of animals on Earth. Of the 1.3 million known invertebrate species, the IUCN has evaluated about 9,526 species, with about 30 percent evaluated at risk of extinction. Freshwater invertebrates are severely threatened by water pollution, groundwater withdrawal and water projects, while a large number of invertebrates of notable scientific significance have become either endangered or extinct due to deforestation, especially because of the rapid destruction of tropical rainforests. In the ocean, reef-building corals are declining at an alarming rate: 2008’s first-ever comprehensive global assessment of these animals revealed that a third of reef-building corals are threatened.

Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the present extinction crisis is that the majority of our closest relatives — the primates — are severely endangered. About 90 percent of primates — the group that contains monkeys, lemurs and apes (as well as humans) — live in tropical forests, which are fast disappearing. The IUCN estimates that almost 50 percent of the world’s primate species are at risk of extinction. Overall, the IUCN estimates that half the globe’s 5,491 known mammals are declining in population and a fifth are clearly at risk of disappearing forever with no fewer than 1,131 mammals across the globe classified as endangered, threatened or vulnerable.

Through photosynthesis, plants provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat and are thus the foundation of most life on Earth. They’re also the source of a majority of medicines in use today. Of the more than 300,000 known species of plants, the IUCN has evaluated only 12,914 species, finding that about 68 percent of evaluated plant species are threatened with extinction. Global warming is likely to substantially exacerbate this problem. Already, scientists say, warming temperatures are causing quick and dramatic changes in the range and distribution of plants around the world.