Atrazine at levels of 0.1 parts per billion turns on an enzyme in frogs (Aromastase) which converts testosterone hormones into estrogen effectively chemically castrating male frogs. Of special concern is the fact that the aromostase gene sequence and regulation in frogs is the same as humans. If Atrazine has such an impact on frogs what about people?
Other studies have also confirmed impacts on mammals, including decreases in testosterone in male rats exposed to atrazine. Rats have also been shown to develop prostate and mammary cancer, immune failure, abortion, impaired mammary development, prostate disease and neural damage. Women exposed to atrazine via well water have been shown to have a higher risk of getting breast cancer and men working in factories where atrazine is produced have an 8% increase in the risk of getting prostate cancer.
Why are farmers still allowed to use atrazine in Australia when it is banned for use in Europe and for use in our gardens?
The Australian government states that atrazine is a valuable tool for Australian farmers.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) conclusion is that if the controls specified on the product labels are followed, atrazine can be used safely and with low risk to the environment.
It seems that both here and in the US, the economic benefits of atrazine were considered over the many risks posed by continued atrazine-use.
Data from France shows that even once atrazine-use is stopped, atrazine is still detectable in aquifers after almost 20 years. Thus, even if we stopped today, our grandchildren would still be exposed, potentially leading to effects on their grandchildren…our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Hayes message is that:
- Low doses matter.
- High doses do not predict low dose effects
- One compound can have many effects
- Early exposure is important and effects can cross generations
- Effects in rodents predict effects in humans
- The supposed benefits are bestowed on one group of individuals, while the risks target others. The poor, who are already more likely to live in contaminated areas, less likely to be educated on the risks of atrazine and other chemicals, and less likely to have access to proper health care, are not likely to be able to afford water filters, bottled water, and organic produce. They are more likely to have the unskilled jobs in agriculture and industry that expose them to contaminates, such as atrazine.
Farmers are exposed to many farm chemicals and thus are putting themselves and their futures at risk.
* Dr Tyrone Hayes is a PhD Professor at the Laboratory for Integrative Studies in Amphibian Biology, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley USA.