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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2004 Apr;23(4):1019-25.

Effects of atrazine on fathead minnow in a short-term reproduction assay.

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  • 1Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, USA.


Atrazine is the most extensively used herbicide in the United States. Part-per-million concentrations of atrazine have been reported in agricultural runoff. It is detectable in surface waters and precipitation throughout the year, and it has been found in groundwater sources of drinking water. Recent studies indicate that atrazine may be a potent endocrine-disrupting compound in frogs exposed to part-per-billion (microg/L) concentrations. For these reasons, the effects of atrazine (5 and 50 microg/L) on several endpoints related to reproductive fitness were examined in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) in a 21-d static exposure. Estradiol (0.5 microg/L) was included as a positive-control treatment. Endpoints examined in adult fish during and after the exposures included survival, egg production, number of spawns, eggs/spawn, relative gonad weight, gonad histology, number of nuptial tubercles, and plasma vitellogenin concentration. Eggs produced during the exposures were hatched and reared in control water. The percentages of embryos fertilized and hatched as well as larval survival were evaluated. Decreasing trends were observed in relative testis weight, testis maturity, and percentage embryo fertilization. These trends suggest that further investigation is warranted, but the differences in these and other endpoints were not statistically significant in the atrazine-exposed fish. Nearly all endpoints concerning fish exposed to estradiol were significantly different from atrazine-exposed fish and control fish. These results suggest that atrazine did not have strong estrogenic effects in adult fathead minnows and did not cause overt reproductive toxicity at environmentally relevant concentrations.

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