EPA Links Weed Killer to Reproductive Complications and Cancer, Takes No Action

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Dear Living Well Daily Reader,

Like the canary in the coal mine, they are telling us something is seriously wrong,” says professor Jean-Marc Hero of the Griffith University School of Environment, during a TED talk. Citing author Di Morrissey in a presentation slide, he wrote, “When the frogs stop singing, the planet will die.”  Just to be clear, professor Hero is saying humans will die too in this scenario.

But it seems like death may be a better option than living in a terrifying, disease-ridden world without the “canaries” professor Hero is referring to — frogs.

You may be thinking, What the hell do frogs have to do with my health?! Or the EPA?

Hang tight, we’ll get there in just a second.

You see, frogs keep your water clean and your food free of crop-ruining insects. Plus, they halt the spread of vector-borne disease (think Zika virus and West Nile disease) and have provided endless value to medical research, including contributions to HIV medications, limb regeneration, and pain management medications.1

Source: Vancouver Aquarium

But perhaps most importantly, they are one of the best indicators of environmental health dangers for humans. So when Hero implies that the end of their singing could be the end of humans, he may be correct.

Obviously, frogs aren’t human, but they do provide a lot of valuable health information.

In fact, in many ways, their health acts a mirror for human health.

This makes the news that frogs are at the brink of extinction troubling, as it could indicate humans may face the same demise. 2

Unfortunately for both frogs and humans, it seems that the American government doesn’t care too much about these recent amphibious warning signs.

In fact, the EPA just released a report about the environmental and biological impact of the second most used weed killer in America on frogs.

And it wasn’t pretty for humans either.

Let’s dive in…

--Dude Looks Like a Lady?

Atrazine, used mostly to protect cornfields from weeds, is one of the oldest herbicides around. In fact, Roundup and its GMO plant counterparts were introduced as a less toxic solution to atrazine.

But that didn’t work.

Atrazine is still heavily used. Over 60 million pounds of atrazine ends up on American crops yearly, in addition to Roundup in most cases.

While it’s most common in the Midwest and other agricultural states, there are traces of it just about everywhere. One reason for this is atrazine’s persistence in wet environments, even long after its use.

Map of estimated agricultural Use of atrazine in 2013. Source: USGS.gov

In fact, parts the Midwest have atrazine levels that exceed the established levels of concern “by as much as 22, 62, and 198 times for birds, mammals, and fish,” according to the EPA’s report.3

The astronomical exposures are taking a toll on the frog population and likely the human population as well. We will get to the effects on humans in just a second.

Instead of killing frogs on contact, like, for instance, spraying a wasp with bug spray would, atrazine wreaks havoc slowly on the frog’s reproductive system.

Research done by Tyrone Haynes, an integrative biologist and atrazine opponent, has found that even in miniscule levels, atrazine can trigger sex changes in frogs. When a male frog is exposed to atrazine, its sexual development is altered and may result in the frog becoming a female or chemically castrated. Without healthy, sexually active males, the populations will dwindle.4

But atrazine isn’t just lurking in ponds and lakes. Detectable levels of atrazine are in almost 90 percent of America’s drinking water.5

Nathan Donley of the Center for Biological Diversity had this to say about the situation:

“When the amount of atrazine allowed in our drinking water is high enough to turn a male tadpole into a female frog, then our regulatory system has failed us. We’ve reached a point with atrazine where more scientific analysis is just unnecessary — atrazine needs to be banned now.

But the reproductive issues aren’t limited to our cold-blooded comrades.

--The EPA Leaves Your Health in the Weeds

Studies have found that maternal atrazine exposure is linked to a variety of birth defects in humans, including low birth weight, and heart, limb, and urinary defects.6

Plus, a panel of independent scientists informed the EPA that there is “suggestive evidence” to link atrazine to ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, hairy-cell leukemia, and thyroid cancer. You can read their findings here.7

So even with clear evidence that atrazine is damaging the health of amphibians and humans alike, the EPA is still allowing our food and environment to be drowned in the toxic swill.

And while the European Union banned atrazine back in 2004 due to its ability to destroy the ecosystem and pollute water, the EPA has been dragging its feet on just completing an assessment since 2009. Undoubtedly, Big Ag has something to do with this snail’s pace.

The EPA report is open for comment for 60 days in the Federal Register (click here to read it). However, an EPA spokeswoman says the report won’t be finalized until 2017. This means there won’t be any regulatory changes until after the presidential election.8

If you would like to take a stand against atrazine (and the EPA’s casual attitude toward it), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an online petition you can sign. Click here to learn more.

Also, water filters with activated charcoal or carbon adsorb atrazine and many other common pesticides and contaminants. Most pitcher and countertop water filtration units are charcoal based. If you are looking for a double dose of health, you can look for charcoal filters that also hydrogenate the water. Hydrogenated water has a whole host of health benefits, including protection from free radicals.

Live well,

Natalie Moore
Managing editor, Living Well Daily


[1] What happens in a world without frogs?

[2] Amphibians facing ‘terrifying’ rate of extinction

[3] Refined Ecological Risk Assessment for Atrazine

[4] EPA Finds Atrazine Likely Harming Most Species of Plants, Animals in U.S.


[6] Public Health Statement for Atrazine

[7] A Set of Scientific Issues Being Considered by the Environmental Protection Agency Regarding: Re-evaluation of the Human Health Effects of Atrazine: Review of Non-Cancer Effects, Drinking Water Monitoring Frequency and Cancer Epidemiology

[8] This Popular Weed Killer Wreaks Havoc on Animals and Is Probably Hurting Us, Too

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