Effects of Atrazine in Fish, Amphibians, and Reptiles: An Analysis Based on Quantitative Weight of Evidence
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A quantitative weight of evidence (WoE) approach was developed to evaluate studies used for regulatory purposes, as well as those in the open literature, that report the effects of the herbicide atrazine on fish, amphibians, and reptiles. The methodology for WoE analysis incorporated a detailed assessment of the relevance of the responses observed to apical endpoints directly related to survival, growth, development, and reproduction, as well as the strength and appropriateness of the experimental methods employed. Numerical scores were assigned for strength and relevance. The means of the scores for relevance and strength were then used to summarize and weigh the evidence for atrazine contributing to ecologically significant responses in the organisms of interest. The summary was presented graphically in a two-dimensional graph which showed the distributions of all the reports for a response. Over 1290 individual responses from studies in 31 species of fish, 32 amphibians, and 8 reptiles were evaluated. Overall, the WoE showed that atrazine might affect biomarker-type responses, such as expression of genes and/or associated proteins, concentrations of hormones, and biochemical processes (e.g. induction of detoxification responses), at concentrations sometimes found in the environment. However, these effects were not translated to adverse outcomes in terms of apical endpoints. The WoE approach provided a quantitative, transparent, reproducible, and robust framework that can be used to assist the decision-making process when assessing environmental chemicals. In addition, the process allowed easy identification of uncertainty and inconsistency in observations, and thus clearly identified areas where future investigations can be best directed.
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