LONDON - One of the world's most popular
weedkillers, atrazine, is common in water and could be
having a sex-change effect on amphibians, according to
a report Wednesday.
American scientists have discovered a strong link
between atrazine and hermaphrodite tendencies observed
in wild leopard frogs across the U.S. Midwest.
The research by a team from the University of California
at Berkeley is published in the science journal Nature.
The team took water samples at various locations and
found that only one site had atrazine levels below their
detection limit. "This site was the only locality where
testicular oocytes were not observed in the local population
of leopard frogs," they wrote. Oocytes are egg mother
The scientists said atrazine was the most commonly
used herbicide in the United States and probably in
the world and was found in high concentrations even
in nonfarming areas.
"The hermaphroditism was not evident in the absence
of atrazine exposure. We conclude that atrazine is responsible
for these effects in wild populations even though other
contaminants may be present that could produce similar
effects," they said.
The report also warned that the sex change effects
might not be limited to leopard frogs but might be a
threat to all amphibian species.
"As its effects are not restricted to a single species,
it is possible that this herbicide may pose a threat
to amphibians in general," it said. "Most water sources
in the United States, including rain, contain more atrazine
than the effective doses determined in laboratory studies,"
the report said.
It concluded with a call for further investigations
into the link between atrazine and sex organ abnormalities