Atrazine Changes Sex of Frogs

We have been following news reports regarding the herbicide. <"">Atrazine for some time. Now, the San Francisco Gate (SFGate) is reporting that Atrazine has been linked to sex changes in many male frogs—from male to female—and the “emasculation” of three-quarters of the other frogs. The SFGate cited research just reported by Tyrone Hayes, a UC Berkeley professor and molecular toxicologist, said the SFGate.

Not unexpectedly, scientists with the Syngenta, Atrazine’s largest producer, found the findings to be “fundamentally flawed,” said the SFGate. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the pesticide under the Bush administration after it rejected earlier findings, said SFGate. Scientists at the EPA who are part of the Obama administration are currently reviewing the earlier EPA rule, said the SFGate, which added that the European Union (EU) banned Atrazine after it found very small levels in lakes and streams “severely damaged” amphibians in those bodies of water.

The study conducted by Hayes and his team found that 10 percent of the male frogs studied who ingested small amounts of Atrazine, changed to female; the altered females were then genetically male and able to mate with other males, said SFGate. The offspring of the genetically altered males with natural males were all males who could mate with female frogs, added the SFGate. The research is being published in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In an interview, Hayes said that Atrazine’s worldwide ubiquity could likely be linked to what he described as a global decline in the frog and amphibian populations, which has confounded scientists and has also had impacts on world ecology, explained the SFGate. “There is more and more evidence from other researchers,” said Hayes, “that Atrazine is also damaging the immune systems of fish, reptiles and birds,” quoted the SFGate.

The research team looked at both common laboratory frogs and wild African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) in the field; all results were lab confirmed, said Hayes, wrote SFGate. All of the frogs were exposed to minute does of the pesticide when they were in the larval stage and for two-to-three years as they were developing into adulthood.

Interestingly, Hayes said he worked as a research biologist at Syngenta from 1997 to 2000; however, his contract was cut short when his studies revealed Atrazine’s dangers, said the SFGate. Syngenta not only maintains that Hayes’s research is “basically and fundamentally flawed,” but that his “results are not plausible,” quoted the SFGate.

Regardless, Atrazine is an established endocrine disruptor, meaning that it changes hormone functioning, in this case changing the male hormone, testosterone, to estrogen, a female hormone, said the SFGate, citing Hayes. Also, recent research on which we have written found links between Atrazine and gastroschisis, a birth defect. Prior research found links in Atrazine’s presence in drinking water and low birth weights, birth defects, and reproductive problems. We have also long been following links between pesticides and herbicides and adverse medical effects across various demographics, including between pediatric cancer and common, household pesticides; pesticides and Parkinson’s disease; and pesticides and Alzheimer’s disease risks.

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