Atrazine harms amphibians and other water animals

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Maria Cendejas and editing by Stacey Sexton

An international team of researchers has taken another look at how exposure to atrazine, an herbicide, is linked to reproductive problems in animals.

Atrazine is banned in Europe but widely used in other countries to stop broadleaf and grassy weeds from growing in major crops.   Atrazine is the second most common herbicide in the United States and millions of pounds of it are used each year.   The chemical contaminates the rain, ground and surface water.

Researchers found that the reproductive system in animals exposed to the chemical over a period of time do not function properly, according to Professor Van Beasley of the University of Illinois.   It causes abnormality of the male hormone that affects the male genitalia.

Professor Beasley found at least 10 studies of male frogs that were exposed to the chemical and later showed a sex change.  He was one of the first to find out that male frogs from the wild exposed to the chemical were more likely to have both female and male sex organs than frogs from an atrazine-free environment.  Some male frogs that had been exposed were becoming females and acted as if they were female frogs.

Different studies came to different conclusions though.  Professor Beasley explains, "But the studies are not all the same. There are different species, different times of exposure, different stages of development and different strains within a species.”

While the exact effect of exposure may not yet be quantified, evidence shows that atrazine harms amphibians and other animals that live in water.

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