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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Apr;44(3 Suppl 1):S1-76. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

Analysis of reproductive toxicity and classification of glufosinate-ammonium.

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Division of Toxicology and Prevention, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.



Science Partners' Evaluation Group (Evaluation Group) has conducted an independent analysis of the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium (GA) relative to its potential to cause reproductive toxicity in humans. Further, the Evaluation Group has evaluated the implementation of Annex 6 of Commission Directive 2001/59/EC (28th ATP of Council Directive 67/548/EEC) and Council Directive 91/414/EEC, with respect to classification of chemicals posing potential reproductive hazards. After consideration of all information available to us relevant to the potential of glufosinate-ammonium (GA) to cause reproductive toxicity, the Science Partners Evaluation Group concludes that no classification of GA is justified. The following form the basis of this conclusion. There are no human data to suggest that GA causes reproductive toxicity in women or in their conceptus. The issue concerning possible reproductive hazard to humans is raised solely on the basis of positive animal test results that show GA to cause preimplantation or implantation losses in rats. SPECIFICALLY: a. Daily treatment with GA had no detectable effect on the earliest stages of the reproductive sequence including gametogenesis, ovulation, mating and conception; b. Treatment with GA interfered with rat gestation before and at the stage when the conceptus implants into the uterus. This effect occurred at doses of 360 ppm in the feed (corresponding to daily doses of 27.8 mg/kg bw) and above; and c. After implantation, no further effect of GA on prenatal and post-natal development was recognized. Previous concerns that GA might be toxic to embryonic stages after implantation were not supported by the data. Abortions and stillbirth seen were associated with, and regarded as secondary to, maternal toxicity. There was no evidence suggesting the induction of malformations in the offspring. The mechanism underlying this adverse effect in experimental laboratory animals is identified-inhibition of glutamine synthetase. Glutamine is essential to the viability of the embryo. The embryo is dependent on a maternal source of the amino acid. For embryo lethality to occur, a significant reduction of maternal glutamine is required. Such reduction in maternal glutamine depends on a significant inhibition of glutamine synthetase by GA. This can only occur when the mother is exposed to very high levels of GA. SPECIFICALLY: a. The reproductive toxicity of GA is confined to very short, early stages of reproduction, during which the conceptus is dependent on maternal glutamine; and b. In order for the effect to occur, significant reduction in maternal blood glutamine level is required, which in turn depends on a significant inhibition of glutamine synthetase, induced by high levels of GA in the maternal system. There is no evidence for accumulation of GA in the mammalian organism beyond a factor of two and no evidence for its metabolic toxification. To raise a concern in humans, women would have to be exposed to GA during the very limited time frame of preimplantation or implantation and the exposure would have to be to the exceedingly high levels necessary to alter the maternal metabolism and, correspondingly, result in glutamine levels in maternal tissue and blood plasma being drastically reduced. There is no basis to suggest that such exposures would occur under conditions of normal handling and use. SPECIFICALLY: a. Under conditions of normal handling and use, operators would never be exposed to GA levels that could potentially inhibit glutamine synthetase to the extent that this inhibition could impair preimplantation or implantation. b. All acceptable exposure measurements and predictive calculations confirm this conclusion, and in fact demonstrate that reasonably foreseeable exposure of workers would be to levels significantly below the AOEL. c. The evidence is also clear that there is no reproductive toxicity hazard to workers upon reentry tosprayed fields, bystanders, consumers or toddlers. The safety margin compared to the NOAEL in animal studies is sufficiently large to assure protection of the health of workers using GA as well as bystanders, consumers, and toddlers. Pursuant to Annex 6 of Commission Directive 2001/59/EC (28th ATP of Council Directive 67/548/EEC), to justify a classification of category 2 there must be sufficient evidence to produce a strong presumption that human exposure to the substance may result in impaired fertility in humans. It is the conclusion of the Science Partners Evaluation Group that there is no reasonable evidence to suggest a strong presumption of impairment. To the contrary, there is clear evidence demonstrating a strong presumption that exposure to GA would not cause the adverse effect demonstrated in rats. Pursuant to Annex 6 of Commission Directive 2001/59/EC (28th ATP of Council Directive 67/548/EEC), to justify a classification of category 3, there must be sufficient evidence to provide a strong suspicion of impaired fertility in humans. There is no basis to conclude that the animal data demonstrating impaired preimplantation or implantation has any relevance to humans in that the effect found in rats only occurs at levels which would never be experienced by workers under conditions of normal handling and use or by bystanders, consumers, or toddlers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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