October 1, 1997 in Nation/World

Scientists Blame Contaminated Water For Misshapen Frogs

Rochelle Olson Associated Press
 

Something in the water is the likely cause of deformations in Minnesota frogs and possibly those in other parts of the country and Canada, researchers said Tuesday.

“We’re as close to 100 percent sure as you can get,” said George Lucier, director of the environmental toxicology program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, which is working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Reports of frogs with misshapen limbs, missing or shrunken eyes and smaller sex organs have come from throughout much of Minnesota and elsewhere.

Scientists have produced frog embryos with nearly a 100 percent death or deformity rate by mixing newly fertilized eggs with water from at least two contaminated sites in northwestern Minnesota.

The findings, however, are preliminary and haven’t been reviewed by other scientists.

“There are environmental agents in the water that can produce frog abnormality,” said Jim Burkhart, a manager within the National Institute’s environmental toxicology program.

But the research has not shown whether the harmful substance in the water will prove to be man-made or natural such as plants or algae. Burkhart said more study is needed.

Specifically, researchers will chemically analyze the water to look for the particular contaminant. They also will try to determine, through possible tests on mammals, whether the contaminant has an effect on humans.

“We have no indication at all right now that this is a human health concern,” said Peder Larson, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Already, the state is distributing bottled water at two northwestern Minnesota households where a contaminant was found in the tap water.

The agencies have been working on the study since April with several partners. The contaminated water came from wetland sites where high numbers of deformed frogs have been found in the past two years.

In addition to water, other researchers have speculated that ultraviolet radiation, parasites, viruses, disease or a combination of factors may be causing the deformities.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email