Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Are Birth Control Pills Killing the Bay?

Probably not, but they are almost certainly involved in the "feminization" of some fish species in upper portions of the bay, and it's tidal streams. I've pointed that out before, when various news articles were decrying plasticizers, pest and herbicides, and "personal care products" as potential causes for the the appearance of ovaries in male fish with mentioning the potential contribution of dumping vast quantities of known female hormones through sewage treatment plants and out in the the Bay. This is the first popular article I've seen that highlights the potential for birth control pills to be involved.

Fish don’t want birth control, but scientists say they get it from your pill
Your birth control pill is affecting more than just your body.

Flushed down toilets, poured down sinks and excreted in urine, a chemical component in the pill wafts into sewage systems and ends up in various waterways where it collects in fairly heavy doses. That's where fish soak it up.

A recent survey by the U.S. Geological Survey found that fish exposed to a synthetic hormone called 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, produced offspring that struggled to fertilize eggs. The grandchildren of the originally exposed fish suffered a 30 percent decrease in their fertilization rate. The authors mulled the impact of what they discovered and decided it wasn't good.

"If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations," said Ramji Bhandari, a University of Missouri assistant research professor and a visiting scientist at USGS. "These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments."
. . .
BPA and EE2 are both endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormones and cause developmental disorders. Over the past 12 years, male smallmouth and largemouth bass throughout the country, including the Potomac River basin in the Chesapeake Bay region, have switched sex, developing ovaries where their testes should be, and the two disruptors are prime suspects.

These particular chemicals were employed in the study for good reason. EE2 is a major ingredient in oral contraceptives for women, and up to 68 percent of each dose is released in the latrine through urine and excrement. A full dose is released when some women simply pour unused pills down the drain.
So, what's it going to be girls; give up your birth control pills, or give up the Bay?

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