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The Frog Prince or Princess

Updated on March 13, 2010

The Frog Prince or Princess?

The Grimm Part is Right

Imagine you’re reading to your young child out of his favorite book, "All About Animals. " When you get to the section on amphibians, he points to the frogs and proudly states: "The daddies lay the eggs."

You think, "Isn’t that cute?" Since he’s too young to comprehend the reproductive cycle, you’ll smile and correct him in a way he’ll understand.

"That’s almost right, son. Frogs do lay eggs, but it’s the mommy birds, fish, turtles, frogs and other animals that always lay the eggs."

Your child looks you in the eye, and proceeds to tell you, "That used to be true. Now the Daddy frogs lay eggs. I read the dramatic report released in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Science."

Your astonishment at your child’s scholarly response is overshadowed by the thought of the environmental tragedy.

The introduction is fictitious, but sadly the chemical assault causing the sex-reversal in frogs is true. The study was conducted at UC Berkeley and was released March 8, 2010. It was picked up by many major news sources including FOX News, Reuters, NPR and Scientific American.

UC Berkley’s Professor of Biology, Dr. Tyrone Hayes, links the functional sex-reversal in frogs to the herbicide, atrazine. Dr. Hayes and his team of biologists studied 40 African clawed frogs which were kept in water contaminated with 2.5 ppb (parts per billion) of atrazine. The current drinking water standard established by the EPA is 3 ppb.

"Before, we knew we got fewer males than we should have, and we got hermaphrodites, Hayes reported. (These are plants or animals with both male and female reproductive organs.) Now we have clearly shown that many of these animals are sex-reversed males. While still genetically male, the sex-reversed ‘female’ frogs mated and successfully reproduced. "

Hayes also stated they are still studying the reasons for this development but believe that the sex change occurs because atrazine turns on an enzyme called aromatase, which is the machinery, if you will, that converts testosterone into estrogen. About 10% of the males turned into females and the rest that didn’t turn were chemically castrated.

PAN (Pestcide Action Network of North America) noted that in October, 2009, the EPA officially reopened an examination of atrazine, despite the fact that it had been reviewed and approved for continued use in 2003 and received an all clear in 2006. The agency will spend the next year reviewing this herbicide. The chemical is banned in Europe because of suspected links to other abnormalities in amphibians.

Beyond Pesticides out of Washington, D.C., lists the Atrazine common product names of 78 different manufactured products. Atrazine has been linked to cancer, birth defects, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damager, sensitizer/irritant, groundwater contamination and is toxic to fish. It’s the number one pesticide by volume in the U.S., and is found in 70% of U.S. water.

Many pesticides and herbicides are endocrine disruptors—they interact with the hormone system and have negative health impacts at extremely low levels of exposure. The levels are well below what the federal government has called "safe."


Susanne Morrone

Natural Health Chat


Sources: Beyond Pesticide’s Chemical Watch Factsheet

Pesticide Action Network of North America



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