Magazine article Science News

Herbicide Weeds out Mice in the Womb. (Lawn Agent Cues Embryo Shortfall)

Magazine article Science News

Herbicide Weeds out Mice in the Womb. (Lawn Agent Cues Embryo Shortfall)

Article excerpt

Having a lush, dandelion-free lawn may come at an unexpected price. According to a new report, minuscule amounts of over-the-counter weed killers impair reproduction in mice and therefore might also affect other animals, people included.

Previous studies have assessed the toxicity of high doses of single herbicide ingredients, but they haven't tested the chemical cocktails typical of commercial formulations, says toxicologist Warren Porter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He and his colleagues measured the toxicity of an unnamed brand of weed-and-feed mix. It included the herbicides 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba--one or more of which is in each of 1,500 commercial weed-killing formulations. Though herbicides target plants, says Porter, many attack basic biological functions common to both plants and animals.

The researchers fed solutions laced with the weed-killing mixture to four groups of laboratory mice throughout their pregnancies. Concentrations of 2,4-D, for example, ranged from 400 parts per million parts water in the strongest solution to 0.04 parts per million in the weakest. This weakest concentration is lower than some of those that turn up in the environment.

The scientists found that compared with mice receiving herbicide-free solutions, herbicide-fed mice had as few as 80 percent the number of pups. Surprisingly, mothers exposed to the lowest herbicide doses, in general, produced the smallest litters of mice. The findings are reported in an upcoming Environmental Health Perspectives. …

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