"" - Tyrone Hayes.
From the Mother Jones Article:
Hayes is working on several new papers, including one he contends will be his most disturbing yet. It will show that male frogs exposed to atrazine early in life have feminized brains and tend to assume the bottom position when copulating, even when placed in a tank with females. While these frogs lack female sex organs, Hayes explains, their hormonal profile looks female, and "they have an identity that says female."
Darnell lives deep in the basement of a life sciences building at the University of California-Berkeley, in a plastic tub on a row of stainless steel shelves. He is an African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, sometimes called the lab rat of amphibians. Like most of his species, he's hardy and long-lived, an adept swimmer, a poor crawler, and a voracious eater. He's a good breeder, too, having produced both children and grandchildren. There is, however, one unusual thing about Darnell.
Genetically, Darnell is male. But after being raised in water contaminated with the herbicide atrazine at a level of 2.5 parts per billion—slightly less than what's allowed in our drinking water—he developed a female body, inside and out. He is also the mother of his children, having successfully mated with other males and spawned clutches of eggs. Recently he was moved to an atrazine-free tank and has turned lanky, losing the plump, pincushion look of a female frog. But last March, when UC-Berkeley integrative biology professor Tyrone B. Hayes opened him up to take a look, Darnell's insides were still female. "He still has ovaries, but there's no eggs in them," Hayes told me the next day as we stood watching the frog, who swam over and inspected us soberly, then turned and flopped away.
In his experiments, male Xenopus (frogs) exposed to atrazine had shrunken voice boxes, which put them at a disadvantage for courting females. That was startling enough. But when Hayes examined the frogs' gonads, he discovered something more disturbing: About a third of the exposed males had malformed reproductive organs. Many were hermaphrodites, with both ovaries and testes. Some had more than two of each organ—and some of the testes produced eggs instead of sperm.
Xenopus are not naturally hermaphroditic, and no intersex frogs were found in Hayes' control tanks. But gender deformities were present among frogs exposed to as little as 0.1 part per billion (picture a thousandth of a grain of salt in a half gallon of water). That's 30 times less than the 3 ppb the EPA allows in our drinking water.
Since 1980, scientists had been reporting shrinking amphibian populations—close to one-third of known species are now in danger of extinction. Hayes was intrigued to think he might have discovered a cause for the decline. "Everybody is out there looking for dead frogs and what killed the frogs," he explains. "We're asking, 'How come there aren't any new frogs?' Atrazine isn't killing the frogs. But if they're reproductively impaired, that's killing the population."
One study, published in pnas in 2010, found that when 40 male Xenopus hatched in water contaminated with atrazine at a level of 2.5 ppb, three-quarters wound up chemically castrated or partially feminized; four, like Darnell, changed genders completely.
Watch a video with Dr. Hayes:
Now what's interesting is, of course, that we're still using 80 million pounds of atrazine, the number one contaminant in drinking water, that does the opposite -- turns on aromatase, increases estrogen and promotes tumors in rats and is associated with tumors, breast cancer, in humans. What's interesting is, in fact, the same company that sold us 80 million pounds of atrazine, the breast cancer promoter, now sells us the blocker -- the exact same company. And so I find it interesting that instead of treating this disease by preventing exposure to the chemicals that promote it, we simply respond by putting more chemicals into the environment.
DOWNLOAD A VIDEO FEATURING DR. HAYES:
Hayes is the subject of the chidren's book The Frog Scientist, and lectures frequently. His work was recently covered in Mother Jones. (http://www.ted.com/speakers/tyrone_hayes)
Dr. Hayes on Democracy Now:
Born in a colored hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1967, Hayes grew up catching lizards, frogs, and turtles in the swamps near his grandmother's house, which sat on land where his ancestors once toiled as slaves. He was, admittedly, "a weird kid" who raised tadpoles in wading pools and set up bird blinds based on the ones he'd seen on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, wearing pots on his head to fend off jay and dove attacks while he filmed their nests. He would memorize the Latin names of South Carolina beetles in his grandmother's field guides and draw pictures of animals, people, and sci-fi characters.
Hayes' father, Romeo, was a carpet installer who never finished high school, and Hayes, too, struggled in school, largely because he was bored. "I finished all the math books by third grade and most of the reading books," he recalls. "So I was considered disruptive." By middle school, his artistic talents had attracted the notice of his teachers, who placed him in classes for gifted students. But it was science that dominated his thoughts. He spent hours with chameleonlike lizards called anoles, trying to understand what made them change color. He warmed them with a blow-dryer to see if it was heat, sheltered them in a doghouse to see if it was light, and found at last that the creatures had to be awake to color-match, a discovery that won him a state science fair prize. Later, when it came time to think about college, Hayes applied only to Harvard, because he'd heard the name on Green Acres. He got in.
The Ivy League proved a tough transition. At an undergraduate mixer his first day at Harvard in 1985, Hayes recalls introducing himself to a white student who looked at his outstretched hand and said, "It was because of affirmative action that I was wait-listed here." He felt isolated, drank too much, and thought about dropping out. But he gained his bearings with the help of amphibian expert Bruce Waldman, who mentored him, and his girlfriend Kathy Kim, who would become his wife and the mother of his two children. In the end, he graduated summa cum laude in biology. "It was the worst four years of my life," he says now. "But if I could do it all over again, I'd do it exactly the same."
After that rocky start, Hayes' rise was meteoric. He earned his Ph.D. in integrative biology from UC-Berkeley in just three and a half years. Less than a year later the university hired him as an assistant professor—he would soon become the second-youngest tenured professor in his department's history. Hayes might easily have spent his career as an obscure if well-regarded authority on the endocrine systems of frogs had not his work attracted the attention of a consulting firm called EcoRisk*, which sought him out to evaluate atrazine's effects on amphibians.
Others are critical of Hayes' research:
- Hayes has a history of:
- Sub-standard procedures. Not following Good Laboratory Practices;
- Secret methods. Not sharing his methods with other scientists; and
- Secret data. Refusing to provide his original data to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Recruits members to his anti-antrazine AtrazineLovers’ Network;
- Encourages people to complain about [[atrazine]] to the EPA, Congress and Syngenta;
- Has received funding from anti-pesticide activist groups like the World Wildlife Fund and the W. Alton Jones Foundation;
- Is promoted by the anti-pesticide Natural Resources Defense Council;
- Has received awards from anti-pesticide groups like Beyond Pesticides and the Pesticide Action Network (UK); and
- Works with Environmental Media Services.
- I’m not offended by the term ‘activist. Greenwire, August 26, 2010.
- I am biased because I’ve seen the data… I’m biased in that I don’t want [atrazine] in my water. Greenwire, August 26, 2010.
- Ethics complaint filed against Hayes by Syngenta, Syngenta, July 19, 2010.
- Hayes’ taunting e-mail raps, Syngenta.
- Avery A, Pesticide Activism: Fifty Years of Panic and Propaganda, Center for Global Food Issues, October 2010.
- Truitt G, The Unfriendly Side of Eco-Friendly, Hoosier Ag Today, October 10, 2010.
- Avery A, Tyrone Hayes—A Frog in His Throat, Center for Global Food Issue, September 16, 2010.
- Schulte S, Why Profane Emails from Atrazine Scientist Tyrone Hayes Are Important, Kansas Grains Blog, August 27, 2010.
- Frogs, Atrazine and the Nutty Professor, Atrazine News, August 13, 2010.
- Kaleita A, Environmentalist turns to e-bullying, Washington Times, August 11, 2010.
- Avery A, Atrazine: The Strange Case of Dr. Tyrone Hayes, AgSense.org, July 29, 2010.
- Avery A, EPA Exposes Tyrone Hayes — Again, Center for Global Food Issues, June 18, 2010.
- Hayes refuses to make data available to EPA, Letter to Syngenta from EPA, May 17, 2010.
- Milloy S, Poisoned Profits: Recycled Junk Science, FoxNews.com, August 7, 2008.
- Dini J, Fearing Frog Deformities: Media and Environmentalists Croaking in the Wind, Plating & Surface Finishing, December 2007.
- EPA says Hayes data inadequate, EPA testimony before Minnesota House of Representatives, Februaqry 16, 2005.
- Milloy S, Freaky Frogs Not Linked With Herbicide, Says EPA, FoxNews.com, June 12, 2003.
- Milloy S, Freaky Frog Fraud, FoxNews.com, November 8, 2002.
- Avery A, Frog Sex-Change Claims Flawed, Center for Global Food Issues, October 30, 2002.
- Milloy S, Frog Study Leaps to Conclusions, FoxNews.com, April 19, 2002.