Strategies for assessing the implications of malformed frogs for environmental health.
The recent increase in the incidence of deformities among natural frog populations has raised concern about the state of the environment and the possible impact of unidentified causative agents on the health of wildlife and human populations. An open workshop on Strategies for Assessing the Implications of Malformed Frogs for Environmental Health was convened on 4-5 December 1997 at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The purpose of the workshop was to share information among a multidisciplinary group with scientific interest and responsibility for human and environmental health at the federal and state level. Discussions highlighted possible causes and recent findings directly related to frog deformities and provided insight into problems and strategies applicable to continuing investigation in several areas. Possible causes of the deformities were evaluated in terms of diagnostics performed on field amphibians, biologic mechanisms that can lead to the types of malformations observed, and parallel laboratory and field studies. Hydrogeochemistry must be more integrated into environmental toxicology because of the pivotal role of the aquatic environment and the importance of fates and transport relative to any potential exposure. There is no indication of whether there may be a human health factor associated with the deformities. However, the possibility that causal agents may be waterborne indicates a need to identify the relevant factors and establish the relationship between environmental and human health in terms of hazard assessment.