Atrazine: How to Make Boy Frogs into Girl Frogs

August 02, 2009

Terrible Toxins 2  Atrazine:  How to Make Boy Frogs into Girl Frogs 

 Competency # 18  Environmental Toxins.               Reference: The Body Toxic by Nena Baker, Published by Farrar, Strauss 2008 

 Canada has banned it, so has Europe.  We know that those two have regulatory agencies that work from the premise of human safety first.  Europe has its REACH legislation that requires chemical companies to prove that chemicals are safe before they can be put on the market.  It’s a small nuance, but the difference is huge in America.  Here, we require our FDA to prove that harm is caused by the chemical in question, and we don’t require our chemical companies to share information that may lead to proof of that evidence. 

 What is atrazine?  It’s an unbelievably good herbicide.  It kills weeds.  It really works well.  So well that 80% of our cornfields in the Midwest have it applied in the spring.  It’s applied in the spring when it rains a lot.  Some of the atrazine washes off into our groundwater where we now have three parts per billion (ppb) in our groundwater in many locations.  Doesn’t sound like much.  But it has been found as high as 50 parts per billion in some monitoring sites.  The EPA ruled that three ppb was the limit. 

 Here’s the rub.  An independent scientist, Tyrone Hays at Berkeley, has found that he can make boy frogs grow up to look like girl frogs with one-tenth parts per billion, way below the level the EPA says is our safety limit.   He even found the enzyme it disrupts called aromatase.  Atrazine turns on aromatase converting testosterone to estrogen.  A real endocrine disruptor if we ever had one.  He has proven that in many different fashions.  

Guess how the chemical industry replied?  They got a bill slipped into a budget bill President Clinton signed called the Data Quality Act that requires the government to “ensure that the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity” of any regulation is up to scientific snuff.  If you were a lawyer, you could then challenge each of those in court and tie up regulatory rulings by challenging the science.  First, you need some studies to show the opposite of what Tyrone Hays showed.    

Guess what has happened in the last five years?  Of course, chemical company scientists have come up with a whole raft of studies that show no effect of atrazine.  They can then tie up the regulations in court.  Right out of the tobacco industry play book.  Really well done!  That’s called corporate risk management. In the meantime, our American sperm counts are going down, our breast cancer rates are going up, our fertility is changing, we have many more cases of testicular cancer and on and on.  

Are they related?  We just don’t know.  But the difference between Europe and Canada and the USA could not be more stark.  We go on the premise that our FDA has to prove, beyond a shadow of a legal doubt that a chemical is a problem.  In Europe, the chemical company has to prove its products are safe before coming into the market.  Where do you want to live? 

 WWW.  What will work for me.  I live in Milwaukee.  I plan on not walking in unplowed fields in the spring.  I will take off my shoes as I come in the house, as that is how we track atrazine indoors.  I’m going to get a reverse osmosis for my water.  I will write my congressman.  I’m mad.  I want clean water.

Column written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)