Atrazine: A natural born weapon

Biologist aims to relate and change his surroundings


Tyrone Hayes, a professor at the University of California-Berkley, stopped at UW Parkside on Wednesday, February 13, to give a presentation on the state of frogs for UW-Parkside’s Science Night. Titling his slideshow “A Tale of Two Toads”, Hayes goes in on chemical usage, the biological damage these chemicals do to animals and why this is important for humans to watch out for.

A boy who loved frogs

Hayes aimed to tell a story through his presentation, so he relies on the catchphrase, “as a boy who loved frogs”, to describe his lifelong process and research. Starting his experiments as early as 19, he and his colleagues made a hypothesis: since female and male frogs have different colored skin, does dipping them in testosterone and estrogen chance their color?

After extensive research, Hayes and his collaborators found that this does work for frogs, as Male frogs change skin color when left in estrogen for periods of time. They next tried Atrazine, a chemical used as an herbicide, to see the effects. He found here that this actually makes frogs Hermaphroditic. Furthermore, he tested these hermaphroditic frogs having children with female frogs by putting them in a set box for a set amount of time. Based on his findings, he concluded that frogs exposed to Atrazine don’t have enough testosterone to have a sex drive, or aren’t able to produce sperm.

More effects lurking

These weren’t the only conclusions his research dug up, either. Based on similar testing, he confirmed that the chemical HGC makes Xenopus frogs lay eggs, and that Atrazine makes Aromatase, which transforms testosterone into estrogen.

At this point, Hayes decided to look into other animals, such as fish and rats, for testing on the topic, as some have had similar chemical testing results as humans. From testing Aromatase on rats, Hayes concluded that the chemical can cause breast cancer. He stated this is because Aromatase overproduces estrogen cells, which can turn into tumors. He found that the solution is Letrozole, which cuts down the amount of Atrazine, and thus the amount of Aromatase.

It is during this point in the presentation where Hayes became the most confrontational. He admits to having a forceful and fierce personality when it comes to his field, but backs up his evidence with clear and concise reason. A main example for him is the company Syngenta, and how they have a pipe that pumps 1.2 million pounds of Atrazine into the Gulf of Mexico every year. He believes this is extremely important for people to take note of, as he sees this as raising cancer rates throughout the country.

Large scale ramification

Nearing the end of his lecture, he shows examples of what can happen in real life to babies damaged by Atrazine exposure, and settles back into his loose story line about “a boy who loved frogs”. He’s set to continue traveling to different schools, spreading his message of chemical safety and biological research.

His research isn’t just groundbreaking, but also important to us as since we live next to a large body of water. Pollution striking our water is criminal, and should we have a similar company by us, it could be detrimental to our food and health alike.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s