RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Male rats exposed in vitro to low doses of widely used herbicide are more likely than others to develop prostate inflammation, U.S. researchers say.
Study leaders Suzanne Fenton and Jason Stanko of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, say the doses of atrazine -- a herbicide used to control weeds and grasses in crops such as corn and sugar cane -- given to mother rats during the last five days of pregnancy are close to the regulated levels in drinking water sources.
The maximum contamination level of atrazine allowed in U.S. drinking water is 3 parts per billion but the doses given to the animals were 2.5 parts per million, or 8.73 milligrams per kilogram body weight.
"We didn't expect to see these kinds of effects at such low levels," Fenton says in a statement.
The study, published online in Reproductive Toxicology, finds prostate inflammation went from 48 percent in the control group to 81 percent in the male offspring who were exposed to a mixture of atrazine and its breakdown products prenatally.
Fenton is scheduled to present the findings in September to the Environmental Protection Agency as part of its reassessment of atrazine.