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EPA to Investigate Atrazine Manufacturer
(from August 9, 2002)

This week's photo is from Pennsylvania State University, where researcher Joseph Kiesecker tested the role that pesticides, including atrazine, play in frog deformities. His findings suggest that pesticides severely weaken the immune system, making frogs much more susceptible to parasitic infection and deformities such as can be seen in Keisecker's photo. Scientists emphasize the importance of these findings when the threat is translated to human health.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigate Syngenta, the world's largest manufacturer of atrazine. NRDC claims Syngenta deliberately concealed evidence of health threats that atrazine poses to humans. They say Syngenta found cases of prostate cancer among workers at their Louisiana manufacturing plant in the mid 1990's, but did not report these findings until October 2001. According to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide registrants are required to report any adverse health effects to EPA. EPA is taking on the investigation of Syngenta. In his response to NRDC, Assistant Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said, "The agency takes seriously a registrant's responsibility to report studies and incidents of adverse effects. We are investigating your concerns regarding Syngenta's reporting of epidemiological and amphibian studies."

There have been several studies done regarding the toxicity of atrazine that is cause for concern for human health. Keisecker's study not only linked atrazine with weakened immune systems in frogs, but slower development and smaller size. The levels of atrazine they tested at were below EPA-recommended levels for safe drinking water.

Joseph Keisecker commented, "Amphibians have become an important model system. We have to consider that factors that influence infection rates in frogs may also play a role in human diseases."