Far be for the Grump to intrude on an intimate interlude, but this particular amphibious assignation my be even more intimate than you think. There may be more than two frogs involved here. In fact, there may be four.
Chalk it up to a widely used herbicide called atrazine. Farmers love this chemical, because it controls weeds in corn, sorghum, sugar cane, and other crops. Lawn care companies love this chemical because it’s one of the few herbicides out there that keeps common weeds from germinating and also kills weeds that are already growing. It’s a prime ingredient in weed-and-feed fertilizers formulated for use on Southern grasses, such as St. Augustine and centipede. And it’s the only garden chemical that I know of that regularly shows up in water quality tests done by municipal water systems.
How does atrazine wind up in our water? It’s water soluble. So if you put it down and either water a lot or it rains a lot, atrazine washes straight down into ground water, streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. It’s persistent too. In France, where it’s been banned for 15 years, it still shows up in ground water. In this country, if you have a well in the South or Midwest, there’s a fighting chance you’re drinking and washing with atrazine.
Now, you can install home filtration systems to take out the atrazine, but golly gee, I’d just as soon not have to depend on that. (FYI, atrazine is made by a Swiss company and is banned in Switzerland. That tell you anything?)
Now for the Bad News
Although atrazine is a very effective, broad-spectrum herbicide, its misuse inevitably causes problems. As I said before, it easily travels through soil. So if you apply it to your lawn to kill, say, dollarweed, it may flow with the water to the root systems of desirable trees and shrubs. Atrazine damage typically shows up as chlorosis in new foliage — the leaf turns yellow or even white and the midvein stays green. If the affected tree or shrub absorbs enough atrazine, it dies too. Whoops.
But atrazine doesn’t stop with plants, and here’s where the frogs come in. The EPA has set the limit for atrazine contamination in drinking water to 3 parts per billion. Tyrone B. Hayes, Associate Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, recently exposed frog tadpoles to atrazine at 1/10 part per billion. And when those tadpoles turned into adult frogs, about 20% developed “reproductive abnormalities.”
* Some male frogs turned into females and copulated with unexposed male frogs and produced eggs.
* The voice boxes of some males shrunk, so now they croak soprano.
* Males showed decreased libido and lower sperm count.
* Some frogs turned into hermaphrodites with both male and female sex organs. This leaves open the possibility of one frog fertilizing itself. Wow — intimacy taken to a whole new level!
What This Could Mean for You
Don’t think because you and your spouse are not frogs, you get a free ride. A lot more research on this issue needs to be done, but it makes sense to me that what happens to frogs could happen to people. So, ladies, if an analysis of your drinking water shows the presence of atrazine, ask yourself the following questions:
* Does my husband show less interest in sports and more interest in shopping for shoes?
* Has my husband demanded that we pick out new curtains?
* Is my husband suddenly leaving the toilet seat down?
* Does my husband remember an argument we had over socks in 1996 and wake me up at 3 AM to continue it?
* Does my husband complain that we just don’t communicate?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have an atrazine problem. Hopefully, the EPA will take action against this herbicide just as the Europeans have done, but until that happens, the Grump advises not using any garden product that contains atrazine. Which ones do? Read the labels!
Just the Two of Us
In the meantime, I just can’t help thinking about those hermaphroditic frogs. When you first hear about it, you feel sorry for them. But then you realize these lucky frogs will never have to worry about finding dates.
As so I’m reminded of a love song by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr. that really speaks to this happy situation.
Just the two of us
We can make it if we try
Just the two of us
Me and I.