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Gender Bender Proof in Frogs

One of the most common weed-killers in the world, atrazine, causes chemical castration in frogs and could be killing off amphibian populations worldwide, a study published showed. Atrazine, one of the most commonly used and controversial weedkillers, can turn male frogs into females, researchers reported on Monday.

The experiment is the first to show such complete effects of atrazine, which had been known to disrupt hormones and which is one of the chief suspects in the decline of amphibians such as frogs around the world.”Atrazine-exposed males were both demasculinized (chemically castrated) and completely feminized as adults,” Tyrone Hayes of the University of California Berkeley and colleagues wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The chemical had been shown to disrupt development and make frogs develop both male and female features — termed hermaphroditism. This study of 40 male frogs shows the process can go even further, Hayes said.
“Before, we knew we got fewer males than we should have, and we got hermaphrodites. Now, we have clearly shown that many of these animals are sex-reversed males,” Hayes said in a statement.
“Atrazine has caused a hormonal imbalance that has made them develop into the wrong sex, in terms of their genetic constitution.”

Syngenta AG , one of several companies that makes atrazine, questioned the design of the study and said Hayes has a history of offering flawed studies for publication.

“For 50 years, atrazine has been used safely in agriculture with no effect to amphibians, fish, birds and other wildlife at concentrations found in the environment — a fact that is supported by numerous scientific studies,” the company said in a statement. The Proceedings is a peer-reviewed journal, meaning that papers it publishes have been screened for obvious flaws.

EFFECTS ON HUMANS?

Whether the effects translate to humans is far from clear. Frogs have thin skin that can absorb chemicals easily and they literally bathe in the polluted water.
The European Union banned atrazine in 2004. The finding may add pressure to the United States to more closely regulate the chemical, used widely in agriculture.
“Approximately 80 million pounds (36,000 tonnes) are applied annually in the United States alone, and atrazine is the most common pesticide contaminant of ground and surface water,” the researchers wrote.
“In fact, more than a half million pounds (220 tonnes) of atrazine are precipitated in rainfall each year in the United States.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in October it was reviewing the health impacts of atrazine.
Hayes and colleagues studied 40 African clawed frogs, keeping them in water contaminated with 2.5 ppb (parts per billion) of atrazine. The EPA’s current drinking water standard is 3 ppb.
“Ten percent of the exposed genetic males developed into functional females that copulated with unexposed males and produced viable eggs,” the researchers wrote.
“Regardless of the mechanism, the impacts of atrazine on amphibians and on wildlife in general are potentially devastating,” they wrote.

“The negative impacts on wild amphibians is especially concerning given that the dose examined here (2.5 ppb) is in the range that animals experience year-round in areas where atrazine is used as well within levels found in rainfall, in which levels can exceed 100 ppb in the Midwestern United States,” they added.

Published on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 by Reuters

Common Weedkiller Turns Male Frogs Into Females

by Maggie Fox

(Editing by Sandra Maler)
© 2010 Reuters

Drinking from Plastic Bottles ‘Increases Exposure to Gender-Bending Chemical’

by Murray Wardrop

Published on Friday, May 22, 2009 by The Telegraph/UK

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that polycarbonate containers release the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) into liquid stored in them.

As well as plastic bottles, BPA is also found in dentistry composites and sealants and in the lining of aluminium food and beverage cans

BPA has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.

New research by Harvard School of Public Health found that participants who drank for a week from polycarbonate bottles showed a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine.
Experts warned that babies are at greater risk, because heating baby bottles increases the amount of BPA released, and the chemical is potentially more harmful to infants.

Study author Karin B. Michels, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH and Harvard Medical School, said: “We found that drinking cold liquids from polycarbonate bottles for just one week increased urinary BPA levels by more than two-thirds. “If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher. “This would be of concern since infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA’s endocrine-disrupting potential.”
Altogether 77 students took part in the study after a seven-day “washout” phase in which they drank all cold beverages from stainless steel bottles in order to minimise BPA exposure. They were then given two polycarbonate bottles and asked to drink all cold beverages from the bottles during the next week.The results showed the volunteers’ urinary BPA concentrations increased 69 per cent after drinking from the polycarbonate bottles.

Previous studies had found that BPA can be transferred from polycarbonate bottles into their contents, but this study is the first to show a corresponding increase in urinary BPA concentrations in humans.
One of the study’s strengths, said the research published in Environmental Health Perspectives, is that the students drank from the bottles in a normal way.

Additionally, the students did not wash their bottles in dishwashers or put hot liquids in them, as heating has already been shown to increase the leaching of BPA from polycarbonate.
Canada banned the use of BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles in 2008 and some manufacturers have voluntarily eliminated BPA from their products.

With increasing evidence of the potential harmful effects of BPA in humans, the study’s authors believe further research is needed into BPA’s impact on babies, and on reproductive disorders and breast cancer in adults.
Most adults carry BPA in their bodies, but expert opinion on the risks is divided.
The European Food Safety Authority believes that people naturally convert the chemical into less harmful substances into the body.

Harvard researcher Jenny Carwile said: “While previous studies have demonstrated that BPA is linked to adverse health effects, this study fills in a missing piece of the puzzle – whether or not polycarbonate plastic bottles are an important contributor to the amount of BPA in the body.”
BPA is also found in dentistry composites and sealants and in the lining of aluminium food and beverage cans.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009

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