Pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc...) are toxic chemicals that generally undergo little to no testing on amphibians prior to their being approved for use. Unfortunately, the law of gravity has it that many of these pesticides end up in waterways, where amphibians live and breed. Amphibians have permeable skin that is highly absorbent, making them extremely susceptible to pollutants and pesticides.
An abundance of scientific literature has demonstrated the negative effects of an array of commonly used pesticides on amphibians: delayed metamorphosis, immunosuppresion, hermaphroditism, sex reversal, and outright mortality. There are over 18,000 registered pesticides in the USA. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, 200 million pounds of pesticides are applied each year in California alone, and two billion pounds throughout the USA annually.
Many pesticides are applied by spraying, and a portion of the chemicals inevitably get caught in the wind and lifted up to the clouds, where they can be carried for hundreds of kilometers from their source -- often getting deposited on mountaintops in once pristine national parks and preserves. Populations of the critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frog Rana muscosa that live downwind of highly agricultural areas in California's Central Valley have disappeared at a significantly higher rate than other populations, and the species is on the verge of extinction.
Frog art by Amritha Warrier, India
Atrazine turns male frogs into females and eighty million pounds of it are used in the USA each year. SAVE THE FROGS! is working hard to get Atrazine federally banned and out of production in the USA. Learn all about this horrible pesticide and how you can help.
Roundup (also sold as Touchdown Total) is lethal to gray treefrog and leopard frog tadpoles, and most likely a host of other as yet untested frog species. Roundup is the most commonly applied herbicide in the USA. In 2007, as much as 185 million pounds of glyphosate was used by U.S. farmers, double the amount used six years prior, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. Roundup is produced by Monsanto, the same folks who gave us Agent Orange. Over half of the DNA found in frogs is also found in humans, so if these pesticides kill frogs, imagine what they do to us! Is Roundup even good for crops? A team of USDA researchers reported that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) may actually be causing fungal root disease in "Roundup-ready" corn and soybeans. Glyphosate is used worldwide, as can be seen on this billboard photographed in downtown Kumasi, Ghana. Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, was ordered in November 2011 to examine the effect of Roundup on amphibians. The Netherlands banned Roundup in 2014.
Chlorothalonil is the most commonly used synthetic fungicide in the USA, commonly applied to peanuts, tomatoes and potatoes. It is also extremely common in Costa Rica and tropical nations, where it is used on bananas and other crops. At concentrations commonly found in areas where the fungicide is applied, Chlorothalonil causes 100% mortality to tadpoles of Cuban Treefrogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis), Squirrel Treefrogs (Hyla squirella) and Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) within 24 hours of exposure.
-- Fungicide-induced declines of freshwater biodiversity modify
ecosystem functions and services. McMahon et al. 2012
-- The Fungicide Chlorothalonil is Nonlinearly Associated with Corticosterone Levels, Immunity, and Mortality in Amphibians. McMahon et al. 2011. Supplemental Info here.
Frog art by Angeline Woo Kar Kei, 11, Malaysia
Update: Methyl Iodide is now off the market in California!
Known to the state of California to cause cancer and/or reproductive defects, Methyl Iodide is currently approved for use on strawberries. In Santa Cruz County, these strawberry fields surround the last remaining habitat of the Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander, one of the world's most endangered salamanders. Read SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger's letter to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors asking them to ban methyl iodide.
"Just because it disappears into the soil doesn't mean it no longer exists."
--Deborah Pergolotti; President, Frog Decline Reversal Project, Inc.
The award-winning documentary by Jennifer Grace. Watch it!
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Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley said in June 2013 his government is developing a National Organic Policy because the country's farmers are increasingly convinced that "by working in harmony with nature, they can help sustain the flow of nature's bounties".
From the 2009 Frog Poetry Contest
These frogs they’re saying
“Stop using pesticides.
Look what it’s done to us.
We’re mutated because of that stuff!"
Frog art by Frank Beifus
The plight of the frog,
And it's cousin the toad,
Are on a dangerous path,
Or the end of the road.
It seems man's pollution,
Upon this earth,
May stop its evolution,
For fewer frogs birth.
Frogs and toads,
Amphibians one and all,
Are trying to tell us,
Of our great fall.
The lakes and the streams,
They love to call home.
Are now too polluted,
And covered with foam.
Many species are gone,
Never again to be seen,
It's our loss,
We didn't do it to be mean.
Unfortunately our greed gets in the way.
Herbicides, pesticides, darken the day.
Frogs and toads are the ones who pay.
Human kind may be joining,
The frogs distress.
The toads mourning,
From this pollution mess.
But maybe it's not to late,
To save frogs this horrible fate.
Clean up the water, air, and land,
Perhaps the toad will make a stand.
Better off we all will be,
When frogs and toads are healthy.
So do what you can,
And lend a hand
To clean the water, air and land.
I hope not this is,
For frogs and toads,
Are our friend.
-- By Dennis Renner
From the 2011 SAVE THE FROGS! Poetry Contest
Frog art by Jean, Age 10, Thailand
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Pesticides also include plant regulators, defoliants and desiccants.
Frog art from Ghana
"I have a few ideas for safer pesticides/alternatives. If you want to get rid of grasses between your stones/bricks (ie patches of grass) you can use boiling water. It breaks down the cell walls and kills the plant really quickly (Pour it over the roots). I've used this for quite a while, for example to get rid of the grass that grows in front of my back door (It got so high I couldn't shut the door!). You can use Neem oil (Azadirachta indica), which is commercially available and is a good product in some areas (used in cooking in India). It is a very effective insecticide(kills larvae)/insect repellent. You can also use sesame oil for this. Just rub them on the leaves of your plants and you won't have scale bugs etc. You can also take a diluted soap mixture (very diluted: 5%) and rub that on your plants (works on squash too) and it'll keep insects away."
-- University of South Florida Ph.D. Candidate Taegan McMahon
Do you have any other thoughts on alternatives to pesticides? If so, please let us know!
-- The Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America in 2010 submitted this COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY
AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF against the US Environmental Protection Agency seeking an order declaring that EPA has violated Section
7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act by failing to undergo consultation with the Service concerning pesticide impacts on endangered and threatened species in the United States. The plaintiffs seek an order compelling EPA to initiate and complete this consultation process.
-- Terrestrial pesticide exposure of amphibians: An underestimated cause of global decline? Bruhl, C.A., Schmidt, T., Pieper, S. & Alscher, A. Sci. Rep. 3, 1135; DOI:10.1038/srep01135 (2013).