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Atrazine a danger for frogs and human health

The herbicide atrazine have been used by farmers for 50 years. It has been banned in the European Union since 2004, however, in the United States atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides, with 76 million pounds of it applied each year.

Atrazine poses a serious threat to amphibians and human health by:

  • Developing severe sexual deformities to frogs exposed to atrazine at a level one-thirtieth of the EPA's current drinking water standard.

  • Suppressing the leopard frogs’ immune systems while boosting the population of snails that play host to parasitic worm larvae, the latter of which infect the frogs.

  • Potentially feminizing male tadpoles and turning them into female frogs or rendering some males infertile. Alternatively, atrazine may favor tadpoles that delay sexual differentiation until after they have turned into frogs and leave the contaminated water. Researchers reported that a common laboratory frog, the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), became demasculinized when raised in lab tanks with concentrations of atrazine of 0.1 ppb or higher. The current allowable limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for atrazine in drinking water is 3 ppb, and the proposed chronic exposure limit for aquatic life is 12 ppb.

  • Inducing prostate and mammary cancers in rats.

  • Being linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Syngenta (producer of astrazine) employees had elevated rates of prostate cancer -- a rate more than three-and-a-half times higher than the Louisiana statewide average.

The good news is that there are readily available, affordable, and safer alternatives. So we need to ban the use of the dangerous atrazine for our health and the environment. New farming techniques are more cost-effective than any herbicide and can preclude the necessity of using atrazine.

What you can do now?

Tell your representatives to support the EPA to ban the use of Atrazine from the U.S. market. Join the campaign led by the Amphibian Conservation Alliance. It takes only a few minutes to send emails to your appropriate Members of Congress to tell EPA to ban atrazine now!

Learn more about atrazine with Dr. Tyrone Hayes of UC Berkeley

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

External links

Atrazine may feminize male tadpoles and turn them into female frogs. © Pierre Fidenci

Atrazine suppresses frogs’ immune systems.
© Pierre Fidenci

Studies show a link between atrazine and cancer in both humans and animals.

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