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Study finds exposure to herbicide increases frogs' risk of death from fungal infection

Sunday, November 03, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: atrazine, herbicide exposure, fungal infection

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(NaturalNews) A popular crop herbicide that multiple studies have shown causes hormone disruption, reproductive mutations, birth defects and cancer now appears to also increase mortality rates, according to a new study out of the University of South Florida. Biologist Jason Rohr and his colleagues discovered that atrazine, which is said to be the most heavily used crop herbicide in the U.S., exacerbates the severity of some infections, causing them to be more virulent than they otherwise would under normal conditions.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the results of the new study indicate that frogs afflicted with chytridiomycosis, a pathogenic disease spread among amphibians caused by chytrid fungus, are much more likely to die from it when exposed to atrazine. Referred to in the study as a "stressor," atrazine appears to severely inhibit the normal function of frogs' immune systems, rendering them less capable of naturally fighting off this epidemic disease.

To arrive at this conclusion, Rohr and his colleagues tested the effects of atrazine on laboratory frogs for six days. Compared to non-exposed frogs, atrazine-exposed frogs experienced an increase in mortality of 46 days, but only when they were exposed to the chytrid fungus. In other words, the herbicide appears to weaken the natural immunity of frogs to the degree that they are much more likely to die from the disease than survive.

"These findings are important because they suggest that amphibians might need to be exposed only to atrazine briefly as larvae for atrazine to cause persistent increases in their risk of chytri-induced mortality," stated Rohr. "Our findings suggest that reducing early-life exposure of amphibians to atrazine could reduce lasting increases in the risk of mortality from a disease associated with worldwide amphibian declines."

Three-fourths of corn crop acreage in the U.S. regularly doused with toxic atrazine

But with an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine still being dumped on corn and wheat fields, pasture lands and forests every single year in the U.S., this is a difficult chemical exposure to limit. A shocking 75 percent of all corn acreage in the U.S. is treated with atrazine, it turns out, as are many lawns throughout the Southeast.

"Atrazine's frequent detection in streams, rivers, groundwater, and reservoirs is related directly to both its volume of usage, and its tendency to persist in soils and move with water," admits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its background sheet for atrazine.

And yet the EPA continues to deny that atrazine is in any way harmful to humans, despite the fact that numerous studies over the years have pinned it as an endocrine disruptor. The EPA's own literature even identifies atrazine as a hormone-mimicker in humans, noting that miniscule levels of the poison as low as 0.1 part per billion are biologically active in a harmful way.

"Atrazine... appears to have effects during critical stages of fetal development," Suzanne Fenton of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and former EPA researcher, is quoted as saying by the Chicago Tribune with regards to the dangers of atrazine.

Another EPA study found that rats exposed to atrazine, especially during their developmental years, were more prone to developing cancer later on in life compared to non-exposed rats. And another study revealed that male frogs exposed to atrazine became chemically castrated and "feminized," with severely decreased levels of testosterone and lowered fertility.

You can learn more about the dangers of atrazine by checking out previous articles on the subject posted here at NaturalNews:

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