Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world. It is also the most commonly found water pollutant in North America. Outlawed in Europe in 2003 for after some disturbing links to prostate and breast cancer, over 80 million pounds are dumped on the US every year. Atrazine has long been a suspect in causing the decline of reptile populations, and researchers at the University of California Berkeley recently released a study that found atrazine causes perfectly healthy genetically male frogs to grow up to be reproductive adult females.
Researchers have long been trying to find the cause of the decline in amphibian populations across the world and have suspected that atrazine could be one of the causes. In previous studies, atrazine polluted water has been proven a known endocrine disruptor and has caused demasculation of frogs in the past. However, in this study of 40 male African Clawed Frogs, for the first time 10% of the frogs grew to be adult females that copulated with healthy male frogs. Frogs were used in the study because amphibians spend their time in the lakes and rivers where atrazine is found in the highest concentration, and they have especially porous skin.
The EPA regulates atrazine and has set the legal limit at 3 parts per billion. The University of California Berkeley study, led by Tyrone Hayes PhD, used only 2.5 parts per billion, proving that even the legal limit can be dangerous. Atrazine is mainly used on corn crops which are common in the Midwest, and it has been found in higher concentrations in that part of the US, sometimes reaching 100 parts per billion.
The chemical can also be carried over 600 miles by rainfall and may contaminate underground drinking water sources simply by seeping through the soil. Though links to endocrine disruption in humans are hard to prove, and the largest manufacturer of atrazine — syngenta — is doing all it can to disprove the facts at hand, it seems to us that this is a hazardous chemical for anyone.