A new report shows that atrazine, the second-most widely used agricultural herbicide in America, poses a serious threat to amphibians.
[social_buttons]For a long time now, I’ve been hearing about the worrisome disappearance of amphibians around the world. One third of amphibian populations on Planet Earth are threatened with extinction. A new study finds that atrazine, the second most widely used farm herbicide in the country, is partly responsible for this decline.
The weed killer allows massive concentrations of flatworms to live and thrive in amphibians’ ponds. In water where atrazine was present, the study showed that young frogs produced only one-half to one-seventh as many parasite-clearing immune cells as frogs in atrazine-free water. In these circumstances, their ability to fight off infections from the increasing number of flatworms was jeopardized. To make things worse, phosphate runoff entering into the same body of water has been shown to increase atrazine’s toxicity.
Flatworm infections can lead to limb deformities in frogs, and severe infections can lead to death. High rates of these infections began showing up in frogs across the nation in the mid-1990s. The new study suggests that one reason for this is because of atrazine’s quick rise in popularity amongst U.S farmers around that time.
“What really impressed me about the new work,” offered Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, “is that it looked at a huge number of factors describing a complex environment and asked which of these 240 things contributes [to flatworm infections in frogs]. And the most important one turned out to be atrazine.”
Where did this chemical come from and how do we replace it with something less harmful?
Syngenta, a self-labeled “world-leading agribusiness committed to sustainable agriculture,” registered atrazine for U.S. use and remains a leading manufacturer of the toxic chemical. I’ve already contacted their “health, safety and environment” department, telling them to find a better solution than atrazine. I wonder if flooding Syngenta’s e-mail box will help get the message across.
Source: Science News
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Meg Hamill has been working in the environmental non-profit field in Northern California for the past six years. She currently works as a naturalist for LandPaths (in partnership with the Open Space District) in Santa Rosa California. She teaches poetry in the public school through California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) and has traveled extensively throughout South and Central America, picking up Spanish along the way. In 1999 she completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Meg holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has published two books of political/environmental poetry. Read more, buy books and e-mail Meg at www.meghamill.com.