MPCA begins deformed frog study

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 9/3/96.

There have been over 100 reported sightings of deformed frogs in Minnesota this year, according to Mark Gernes from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The frogs, who are usually missing one leg from the knee down, have been sighted in both Meeker and Stearns counties.

Stearns County has reported three frogs and Meeker has reported eight. The MPCA also received two reports from Canada, one from South Dakota and one from Wisconsin.

There is a "large variation" in the percent of the frog population that is affected in each report area. In some cases, 50 percent or more of the population was affected.

The MPCA started studying the frogs in 1993 after they received reports of deformities around Granite Falls. The MPCA team only got to Granite Falls in September. Their work there was "inconclusive," Gernes said. The MPCA didn't find very many deformed frogs. However, in June of that summer, there were a larger number of these frogs.

Studies of frog tissues have shown heavy metal residues and agricultural (pesticide) residues.

"We still don't know which metals or if agricultural chemicals could cause these deformities," Gernes said. However, metals and pesticides are "likely theories."

A team is beginning to study the frogs in greater detail. The team includes geneticists. They will find out if the frogs' DNA is abnormal, or if the abnormalities reside in the chromosomes.

As for the effects on humans, there is no concrete proof that frog deformities correspond with human deformities.

The MPCA is communicating with Vince Gary, who did research at the University of Minnesota concerning human birth defects. Human birth defects were prevalent when one parent was a pesticide applicator, according to Gary's studies. He also found that more birth defects occur in humans who are conceived in the spring ÷ when pesticides are sprayed.

However, Gary's studies were from 1989 through 1992 and the MPCA's studies started in 1993, so the time periods for the two databases don't correspond.

MPCA has a booth in the education building at the state fair. They have more information available about the frog deformities and their studies concerning them.

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