6 September 2010
Herbicide causes prostate problems, delays puberty
by George Atkinson
Exposure to low doses of atrazine, a widely used herbicide, caused prostate inflammation in rats and delayed the onset of puberty. Atrazine, an herbicide used to control weeds and grasses in crops such as corn and sugar cane, is known to be relatively persistent in the environment, potentially finding its way into water supplies.
The research, appearing in Reproductive Toxicology, found that the incidence of prostate inflammation went from 48 percent in the unexposed rodent group to 81 percent in the male offspring who were exposed to a mixture of atrazine and its breakdown products prenatally. The severity of the inflammation increased with the strength of the doses. Puberty was also delayed in the animals who received atrazine. The doses of atrazine given to the rats during the last five days of their pregnancy are similar to the regulated levels in drinking water sources.
"We didn't expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels," said Suzanne Fenton, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Fenton was the author of a 2007 paper which demonstrated low doses of atrazine delayed mammary development in females.
Fenton points out that these findings may extend beyond atrazine alone, and may be relevant to other herbicides found in the same chlorotriazine family, including propazine and simazine. All three of the herbicides create the same set of breakdown products.
"We hope that this information will be useful to the EPA, as it completes its risk assessment of atrazine," said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
(Atrazine is sold under the tradenames Aatrex, Actinite PK, Akticon, Argezin, Atazinax, Atranex, Atrataf, Atred, Candex, Cekuzina-T, Chromozin, Crisatrina, Cyazin, Fenamin, Fenatrol, Gesaprimm, Hungazin, Inakor, Pitezin, Primatol, Radazin, Strazine Vectal, Weedex A, Wonuk, Zeapos, Zeazine)
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Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences