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New SIU Study - Pesticides Kill Frogs

August 18, 2009

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Frogs have been dying off around the world since at latest the 1990s, and a new study by an associate professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale blames, in part, pesticides, particularly endosulfan.

The professor, Don Sparling, has been studying frogs for some 15 years, and he says the frog problem has being going on for at least the last 20 years, not only in the United States, but also in most countries around the world.

"The amphibians are the 'canaries in the mine.' This is an early warning signal to human health."

The pesticide that seems to be among the worst is endosulfan, which is sprayed on fruits and vegetables. Sparling's study has found just a small amount can be extremely toxic for frogs.

"Less than one part per billion is enough to kill all of the frogs that are exposed to it, of one species."

That means only a few grains can infect hundreds of gallons of water. He says yellow-legged frogs that spend lots of time in water in the foothills of California are being harmed by the endosulfan that is sprayed in the valley miles away and carried into the foothills on the wind.

Sparling says the disappearing frog population is not just a problem in the United States.

"We've known since at least the mid-1990s that amphibian populations have been declining around the entire world."

Europe and Australia have already banned the pesticide endosulfan. The Environmental Protection Agency is studying its effects in the United States.

Sparling's study can be found in the August 2009 issue of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL