A new study shows that male rats prenatally exposed to low doses of atrazine, a widely used herbicide, are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals. The research adds to a growing body of literature on atrazine, an herbicide predominantly used to control weeds and grasses in crops such as corn and sugar cane. Atrazine and its byproducts are known to be relatively persistent in the environment, potentially finding their way into water supplies.
The research, which is available online and will be featured on the cover of Reproductive Toxicology (Volume 30, Issue 4), found that the incidence of prostate inflammation went from 48 percent in the control 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 mixture given to the rats during the last five days of their pregnancy are close to the regulated levels in drinking water sources. The current maximum contamination level of atrazine allowed in drinking water is 3 parts per billion. The doses given to the animals were 0.09 (or 2.5 parts per million), 0.87, or 8.73 milligrams per kilogram body weight.
The research was led by Suzanne Fenton, Ph.D., and Jason Stanko, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. Fenton began the work as a researcher at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but completed the research at NIEHS, working closely with NIEHS pathologists. Both NIEHS and EPA provided financial support for the study.
"We didn't expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels," Fenton said. She adds that this is the second paper to show low dose effects of atrazine metabolite m
|Contact: Robin Mackar|
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences