Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology

Chemistry and fate of simazine.

PMID 17193734


Simazine, first introduced in 1956, is a popular agricultural herbicide used to inhibit photosynthesis in broadleaf weeds and grasses. It is a member of the triazine family, and according to its physicochemical properties, it is slightly soluble in water, relatively nonvolatile, capable of partitioning into organic phases, and susceptible to photolysis. Sorption and desorption studies on its behavior in soils indicate that simazine does not appreciably sorb to minerals and has the potential to leach in clay and sandy soils. The presence of organic matter in soils contributes to simazine retention but delays its degradation. The primary sorptive mechanism of simazine to OM has been proposed to be via partitioning and/or by the interaction with functional groups of the sorbent. Farming practices directly influence the movement of simazine in soils as well. Tilled fields lower the runoff of simazine when compared to untilled fields, but tilling can also contribute to its movement into groundwater. Planting cover crops on untilled land can significantly reduce simazine runoff. Such practices are important because simazine and its byproducts have been detected in groundwater in The Netherlands, Denmark, and parts of the U.S. (California, North Carolina, Illinois, and Wisconsin) at significant concentrations. Concentrations have also been detected in surface waters around the U.S. and United Kingdom. Although the physicochemical properties of simazine do not support volatilization, residues have been found in the atmosphere and correlate with its application. Although at low concentrations, simazine has also been detected in precipitation in Pennsylvania (U.S.), Greece, and Paris (France). Abiotically, simazine can be oxidized to several degradation products. Although hydrolysis does not contribute to the dissipation of simazine, photolysis does. Microbial degradation is the primary means of simazine dissipation, but the process is relatively slow and kinetically controlled. Some bacteria and fungal species capable of utilizing simazine as a sole carbon and nitrogen source at a fast rate under laboratory conditions have been identified. Metabolism of simazine in higher organisms is via cytochrome P-450-mediated oxidation and glutathione conjugation.