Thursday, December 30, 2010


A report some time back implicated uncontrolled pollution of Thames River in the UK with birth control pills, for the fish to change their sex with females predominating over males! It is known that estrogens present in water can be endocrine disruptors causing fertility problems and other adverse health effects. While well protected water supply systems are supposed to be free from such contaminants, most of the population exposed to untreated or semi-processed water are in danger of consuming significant levels of estrogens and other endocrine disruptor that can have undesirable health implications. Recent studies, though some what limited in its scope, have highlighted this problem more succinctly. It is scary to imagine that improper sewage treatment and stable nature of the estrogen contaminant can affect the fertility in human beings. This is especially true in many developing countries where open defecation is so common and natural streams and rivers are exposed to contamination from human waste. Unfortunately no worth while study has been carried out in this area so far in these countries.

"Amber Wise, Kacie O'Brien and Tracey Woodruff note ongoing concern about possible links between chronic exposure to estrogens in the water supply and fertility problems and other adverse human health effects. Almost 12 million women of reproductive age in the United States take the pill, and their urine contains the hormone. Hence, the belief that oral contraceptives are the major source of estrogen in lakes, rivers, and streams. Knowing that sewage treatment plants remove virtually all of the main estrogen -- 17 alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2) -- in oral contraceptives, the scientists decided to pin down the main sources of estrogens in water supplies. Their analysis found that EE2 has a lower predicted concentration in U.S. drinking water than natural estrogens from soy and dairy products and animal waste used untreated as a farm fertilizer. And that all humans, (men, women and children, and especially pregnant women) excrete hormones in their urine, not just women taking the pill. Some research cited in the report suggests that animal manure accounts for 90 percent of estrogens in the environment. Other research estimates that if just 1 percent of the estrogens in livestock waste reached waterways, it would comprise 15 percent of the estrogens in the world's water supply".

it is time that a concerted effort is made to assess the situation vis-à-vis the extent of presence of estrogens in public water bodies in countries like India. Naturally one assumes that exposure to natural elements and action of soil organisms would have broken down these harmful substances before reaching the water bodies. In a lighter vein one may ask why the fertility rate is so high in most developing countries if the water consumed by the population has high levels of anti-fertility estrogens originating from human and animal wastes? Similary has any one estimated the presence of estrogen like substances in organically grown produce materials as natural fertilizers are used for raising the crops? Probably these issues need some clarification through further scientific efforts.


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