I’m currently attending the 2010 International Congress for Conservation Biology in Edmonton, Canada. I thought it would be good to tweet and blog my way through on topics that catch my attention. This is my second post from the conference.
I silently scoffed inside when the plenary speaker was being introduced. It was boldly claimed that we were about to hear one of the best presentations any of us had ever seen at a scientific conference before.
I cannot say for certain whether it was indeed ‘the best’, but bloody hell, it was excellent.
Our speaker is certainly well-known in the endocrinology world (very well published), is a bane to certain chemical industries and is revered as a scientist who puts his money where is mouth is.
Professor Tyrone Hayes of the University of California Berkeley is an ‘eco-endocrinologist’ who blew the lid on the devastating health effects of the most available and ubiquitous agricultural herbicide in use today – evil atrazine. As my readers know, I am certainly pushing the empirical basis for the link between environmental degradation and deterioration of human health (my talk here at the ICCB on Wednesday will be on this very topic), so this topic interests me greatly.
It’s no secret that atrazine has devastating feminising effects on amphibians (and many other taxa), and has been linked convincingly to increasing the risk of cancer in humans. It’s banned in Europe, but still widely used pretty much everywhere else.
What really frightened me was the statement that atrazine is sometimes used in Australian pools to kill algae! I’m not sure how true this is, whether it has changed, or where we stand on legislation now, but if any Aussies are inadvertently killing themselves and their children (and killing our rapidly dwindling amphibians in the process), we need to ban this product permanently in Australia – now!
I’ve just found a rather weak statement about tightening regulation for its use in Australia, but I am a firm convert now that it should be banned outright. I will certainly follow this up.
Great science leading to great (hopefully) environmental and health outcomes. Watch out, atrazine – your days are numbered.
Hayes, T., Collins, A., Lee, M., Mendoza, M., Noriega, N., Ali Stuart, A., & Vonk, A. (2002). Hermaphroditic, demasculinized frogs after exposure to the herbicide atrazine at low ecologically relevant doses Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99 (8), 5476-5480 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.082121499
Hayes, T., Haston, K., Tsui, M., Hoang, A., Haeffele, C., & Vonk, A. (2002). Herbicides: Feminization of male frogs in the wild Nature, 419 (6910), 895-896 DOI: 10.1038/419895a
HAYES, T. (2004). There Is No Denying This: Defusing the Confusion about Atrazine BioScience, 54 (12) DOI: 10.1641/0006-3568(2004)054[1138:TINDTD]2.0.CO;2
Fan, W., Yanase, T., Morinaga, H., Gondo, S., Okabe, T., Nomura, M., Komatsu, T., Morohashi, K., Hayes, T., Takayanagi, R., & Nawata, H. (2007). Atrazine-Induced Aromatase Expression Is SF-1 Dependent: Implications for Endocrine Disruption in Wildlife and Reproductive Cancers in Humans Environmental Health Perspectives, 115 (5), 720-727 DOI: 10.1289/ehp.9758