There have been open discussions on the harmful chemicals in our earth’s atmosphere, drinking water, food, and products. So it was only a matter of time before I started unpacking them. Upon doing some research, I came across one that’s widely used: atrazine.
Atrazine is a herbicide used on broadleaf and grassy weeds that can also be found in public and private drinking water. It’s a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) that most people can’t purchase because it causes health problems if found in amounts greater than the EPA health standard. Exposure to atrazine can occur through breathing, eating, drinking, or skin contact. When exposed to levels above the MCL of 3 µg/L for short periods, the effects are as follows:
- Congestion of heart, lungs, and kidneys
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Weight loss
- Damage to adrenal glands
Long-term exposure causes the following:
- Weight loss
- Cardiovascular damage
- Retinal and some muscle degeneration
Other studies on atrazine have found that the chemical may be tied to hormonal imbalances in humans and animals.
According to Scientific American, women who drank water contaminated with low levels of atrazine may be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels. 75 percent of all U.S. cornfields use the herbicide, particularly agricultural areas in the Midwest. A research study comparing women in Illinois to women in Vermont found a link between atrazine and altered hormones. Women from Illinois farm towns were five times more likely to report irregular periods and six times as likely to go six weeks between periods than Vermont women.
PubMed Central (PMC) advised that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor that alters male reproductive tissues and demasculinizes and feminizes the gonads of male vertebrates; this includes humans. It produces testicular lesions associated with reduced germ cell numbers and induces aromatase, which leads to inappropriate and excess estrogen production. There’s also been a link between atrazine and intersex gonads in amphibians, notably the feminized secondary sex characteristics in male frogs.
Professor Tyrone Hayes from the University of California, Berkeley, found that this chemical interferes with male development and causes male frogs to turn into females or hermaphrodites who develop eggs. He’s stated the following:
“Atrazine-exposed frogs don’t have normal reproductive systems. The males have ovaries in their testes and much smaller vocal organs.”
“The use of atrazine in the environment is basically an uncontrolled experiment – there seems to be no atrazine-free environment. Because it is so widespread, aquatic environments are at risk.”
As a safety precaution, one can reduce their exposure to atrazine by avoiding areas where it’s being used on crops or for weed control. Well-owners can also contact their local health department to find out if it is a contaminant in their area, and state drinking water agencies can provide names of laboratories certified to test the drinking water.
I’m not done with my research on the dangers in our environment, so stay tuned. If you’d like to read more from Professor Hayes’s findings, click here.
Until Next Time…
Konkel, L. (2011, November 28). Atrazine in Water Tied to Hormonal Irregularities. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/atrazine-water-tied-hormonal-irregularities/
Sanders, R. (2002, April 4). Popular weed killer demasculinizes frogs, disrupts their sexual development, UC Berkeley study shows. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/04/15_frogs.html
Community Water. (2016, October 26). Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showAtrazineHealth.action
Demasculinization and feminization of male gonads by atrazine: Consistent effects across vertebrate classes. (2011, March 23). Retrieved May 22, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303243/