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Amphibians Killed By Pesticides, Human Indicator

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 17, 2008 10:22 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Pesticides, Insecticides, Human Health, Toxic Substances, USDA, EPA

Pesticides and their impact on amphibians in this study.

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IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ Northern Leopard Frog/ author: Bubz

 

Cocktails of pesticide contaminants can kill off large portions of amphibians, adversely impact the earth and by implication, humans.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh say that even when one individual pesticide is within the limits considered safe, when combined they can decimate populations.

Associate Professor Rick Relyea exposed gray tree frog and leopard frog tadpoles to small amounts of pesticides.

They included the insecticides- carbaryl, chiorphrifos, diazinon, endosulfan, and malathion.  Also included in the exposure were five herbicides – acetochlor, atrazine, glyphosate, metolachlor and 2,4-D.

Together the pesticides caused 99 percent mortality in the tadpoles.

 The exposure included each of the pesticide alone, all or the insecticides, a mixture of five of the herbicides or all of them together.

“Endosulfan appears to be about 1,000-times more lethal to amphibians than other pesticides that we have examined,” Relyea said in a statement. “Unfortunately, pesticide regulations do not require amphibian testing, so very little is known about endosulfan's impact on amphibians, despite being sprayed in the environment for more than five decades.”

Even low concentrations appear to travel easily by water and combine downstream to form the toxic cocktail.

For nine years, Relyea has compiled data to understand potential links between the use of pesticides and the global decline in amphibians. 

Amphibians are considered an environmental indicator species because of their unique sensitivity to pollutants and their demise could foreshadow the fate of less sensitive animals, all the way up to humans, Relyea said

Relyea previous paper, published in 2005, suggests that the popular weed-killer Roundup® is “extremely lethal” to amphibians in concentrations found in the environment.

The study results can be found in the online edition of the journal Oecologia.  

Ironically, earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to do away with publishing its national survey tracking pesticide use.

Since 1990, farmers and consumer advocates have relied on the agency's detailed annual report to learn which states apply the most pesticides.

Specifically, the report revealed where bug and weed killers are most heavily sprayed to help cotton, grapes and oranges grow. The EPA also uses the data to help figure out how pesticides should be regulated.   

Prominent scientists, the nation's largest farming organizations, and environmental groups had opposed doing away with publishing the data, which saved the USDA $8 million out of its $160 million budget.  

At a time when consumers are increasingly curious about what goes into their food, and in terms of pesticides, what goes on their food, critics say the affect are wide-ranging. 

"If you don't know what's being used, then you don't know what to look for," said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center, a nonprofit in Enterprise, Ore. 

"In the absence of information, people can be lulled into thinking that there are no problems with the use of pesticides on food in this country." 

Benbrook had used the USDA pesticide figures to show that the use of GM crops had actually increased the use of pesticides in soybeans, not decreased them, as the biotech industry and their supporters had claimed.

"What we'll end up doing is understanding pesticide use through getting accident reports," said Steve Scholl-Buckwald, managing director at the San Francisco nonprofit Pesticide Action Network to Boston.com. "And that's a lousy way to protect public health."  #


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