NewsWed Jul 11, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST
Hormonal Contraceptives Pollute Drinking Water - Environmentalists Turn a Blind Eye
By Hilary White
July 11, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - For some years now, reports have been growing from around the world that the massive amounts of synthetic birth control hormones being pumped into the water systems through sewage outflow is changing the sex of fish stocks. Recently, scientists have also begun to warn of the possible carcinogenic effects of the build-up of estrogenic chemicals in drinking water.
As early as 2002, the UK Environment Agency warned that fish stocks in British rivers were showing signs of gender ambiguity as a result of high levels of estrogen in the water. A survey of 1,500 fish at 50 river sites found more than a third of males also displayed female characteristics.
Research by Dr Jayne Brian and Professor John Sumpter at Brunel University’s Institute for the Environment, showed estrogenic chemicals are affecting the reproduction and gender of aquatic life and warned of the affect on the reproductive ability of humans.
The two researchers are calling for a reassessment of EU legislation regulating chemicals. "There is a cocktail of chemicals in our fresh water. We need to consider tougher safety margins to fully protect wildlife and humans."
Two years ago, University of Colorado scientists, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, found that of 123 fish caught in Boulder Creek downstream from the Boulder sewage treatment plant, 101 were female, 12 were male, and 10 had both male and female characteristics.
The strange case of the trans-gendered fish is "the first thing that I’ve seen as a scientist that really scared me," University of Colorado biologist John Woodling told the Denver Post at the time.
More recently, in June this year, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh investigated the fish populations in the Allegheny River near storm sewer outflow pipes and discovered the same deformations. The region is dependent on the Allegheny system for drinking water.
Dr. Conrad Daniel Volz from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Environmental Oncology, warned that the rise in steroid hormones in the drinking water in the Pittsburgh area is a threat to health. Numerous studies have shown a link between contraceptive estrogen and hormone problems and some cancers, including testicular cancer.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that other study results have shown ambiguous gender in 85 per cent of the catfish caught on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Chemicals extracted from 25 randomly sampled fish caused growth of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells cultured in a laboratory, eleven of which "produced very aggressive cancer growth".
But scientists and environmental groups are careful to avoid recommending restrictions on artificial contraceptives.
The National Catholic Register, reporting on the issue, quotes George Harden, a board member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, saying "If you’re killing mosquitoes to save people from the West Nile virus, you can count on secular environmentalists to lay down in front of the vapour truck, claiming some potential side effect that might result from the spray," Harden said. "But if birth control deforms fish - backed by the proof of an EPA study - and threatens the drinking supply, mum will be the word."
Curt Cunningham, water quality issues chairman for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Sierra Club International, told the Register that people "would not take kindly" to the suggestion of banning or restricting hormonal contraceptives.
"For many people it’s an economic necessity. It’s also a personal freedom issue," Cunningham said.
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Contraceptive Pill Confirmed as Pollutant - UK Environment Agency