It's one thing to worry about pollutants in our freshwater supply. It's another to find out that all across the country, male fish swimming in some of that water are becoming "intersex," their male sex organs producing immature female eggs. Although the condition occurs naturally in some species, it shouldn't happen to black bass. But a new study shows that it is, and in numbers far greater than ever suspected. The phenomenon raises serious concerns about the pollution levels in our rivers and could threaten several species.
The discovery raises some tough questions. Scientists don't know whether the growing number of feminized fish could hinder reproduction enough to disturb the rest of the ecosystem or even drive bass into extinction. Even scarier, the culprit is still unknown. The prime suspect? Our toilets. Previous research indicates that wastewater treatment plants flush endocrine-disruptive compounds (EDCs), including pharmaceuticals, pesticides and hormones, into rivers. Even minuscule amounts of EDCs can trigger powerful hormonal shifts that deform male fishes' reproductive organs. During a seven-year study, for instance, scientists added parts-per-trillion amounts—the levels emitted by treatment plants—of the synthetic estrogen used in birth-control pills to a closed lake. The resulting sex changes collapsed the entire fish population.
Given that intersex fish were found both upstream and downstream of wastewater treatment plants, some scientists also think agricultural runoff could be the cause. Another USGS biologist, Vicki S. Blazer, has found 100 percent of smallmouth bass to be intersex along parts of the Shenandoah River, where rain washes waste laden with hormones excreted from millions of chickens and cattle into the water. Blazer worries that there's a connection between the intersex findings and another health crisis among bass: weakened immune systems, suspected of killing 80 percent of the smallmouth bass in the Shenandoah in 2004 and 2005. She notes that the white blood cells that fight disease in the piscine immune system have receptors for hormones, making them susceptible to the same toxins believed to be driving the sex changes. "Intersex is simply another indicator that there's a problem," she says.
Hinck is now investigating the mechanisms that could be transforming the fish, but we're just beginning to learn what this means for those of us with opposable thumbs, many of whom drink water from these rivers. The same compounds can interfere with the human endocrine system, but there are no regulations for controlling hormones in drinking water.
In September, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency identified nine hormones as possible contaminants in our water, but it's much too early for the agency to declare whether they're dangerous at the trace amounts that have been detected. Mae Wu of the Natural Resources Defense Council is not comforted. "A trace level of one chemical [might not be so bad], but a whole soup of them?" she says. "Hundreds or thousands of different chemicals all at trace levels—we have no idea what that does to humans." At the very least, we can hope that the thought of drinking water that turns male fish into females will spur us to clean up our rivers.
I wonder if the same results are being detected in other countries around the world, and if not I should give an indication as to what is causing the problem. I suspect it could be the hormone given to cows to produce more Milk.
HOLY SHIZ THIS IS SO SCARY I WONT GET FISH LOLOLOLOLOL
oh well this is strange
Yes it is happening to humans, I am one so affected with an intersex condition. Without going into medical issues that are too personal to slather all over the internet, my grampa and my dad sprayed the roadsides in Maine in the 50's for the State and I have this condition as a result. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children yet again.
A Dr Doerner in Germany published papers years ago, showing the correlation between the use of endocrine disrupting agricultural chemicals and the increasing numbers of intersex fish, wildlife and humans. No corporation should be allowed to mess with the human genome just to make a buck. So one hopes you all like trannies, because you are likely to see mnore and more of 'em.
this might help us keep the threat of overpopulation at bay in the long term, but at the expense of aliens visiting our planet and abducting and examining us and leaving (booo) because we're effing weirdoes now who've messed with Mother Nature and are paying for it dearly with our self-imposed genitalia homogeneity
If there are 1000 mail fish and one is more resistant to becoming intersexed and he is the only one to mate then his kids will have the resistance too. This could cause the fish to evolve resistances very quickly. As for the people, meh I'm glad that I have a revere osmosis water filter because all your kids will be freaks and mine will be normal. (^_^)
havent you guys ever seen metrosexuals or emos? its already happening.
thumper you can shut up. emo is a complete stereotype first of all, and i dont want to get banned so i am not going to get into this. if it was youtube, it would be different but i want the freedom of posting comments
Could be the cause of transexuals and such . As a species we need to be more responsible . When I look around the world Im not very encouraged by what I see . Using dangerous chemicals and polluting waterways should be stopped , to bad it'll never happen .
If there are hundreds of chemicals in the water all at trace level is not their sum greater than trace level , surely this is unacceptable . Is there scientific proof that reverse osmosis even filters out these chemicals ? We already know that bottled water is a sham , and often results in water so close to distilled its not safe to drink as it is .
I dont eat any seafood in my diet , its not worth the risk anymore , toxic chemicals build up in fish and marine animals making them toxic . People need to wake up and realize that just because people have aways eaten such and such that it will forever be safe to eat and we can do whatever we like to the environment without effecting possibly our food sources let alone the food sources of our food sources .
Ok Im going to go cry now as I watch the world die .
Scientists have known about this problem for 2 years now. The main problem appears to be that waste filtration plants do not filter out hormones. The culprit being "the pill" causing a huge influx of estrogen.
How else do you explain Liberals?
Some of you guys have just one hammer, and everything looks like a nail to you. Could it be that some previous form of "pollutant" had, until recently, neutralized whatever causes this? Or is something now counteracting male hormones that used to find their way into the areas where female hormones now dominate? The Chinese are using a lot of silver iodide, you know--just to throw one thing out there. If this occurs only downstream from treatment plants, then it's almost laughably easy to source. If it's in the rain, it's not uniquely US in origin, now, is it? Do any natural processes produce chemicals that can act as hormones? Don't know, do ya.
Let's apply science to this, not political prejudice.
We have real and significant problems such as this, yet what is being spent on it? Next to nothing I'd wager. Meanwhile, we continue to throw billions of dollars down the rathole of the global warming fraud.
Let's work on fixing the real problems in the environment and stop chasing a fraud designed only to accrue power and wealth to the uber-class.
Actually this is already happening to humans, particularly in the US. Notice the uptick in Democrat party registrations?
uh yeah WarEagle02, its those darned Republicans trying to join up
Interesting title to the article. Have they not heard of twilight? I think we've already been feminized. Everything's Emo now.
I don't like the implications that this kind of discussion has for transsexual individuals. Obviously, the intersexing of stocks of fish is a serious issue and must be addressed. But I worry that this will only serve as reinforcement for those unenlightened souls who think that there's something "wrong" with transsexual or intersex people who don't conform to traditional models of gender identity. Modern gender theory holds that traditional ideas of "male" and "female" are insufficient in including people who may feel their identity lies somewhere in between. My concern is that these scientific discussions often make these definitions out to be "wrong," a problem that has to be addressed, some wierdness that merits a liberal application of counterproductive psychoanalysis or even eugenics. I know this is all tangential, but it is disconcerting.
@incognito41 Your opinion is valid, however there does exist some popular media that is not made to attract male viewers.
@Blackhawk003 I see what you mean by unenlightened souls, but don't fall victim to that yourself. Traditional male and female gender roles have little, if anything, to do with fish genitalia.
Through pollutants in the river and the environment, all living organisms are slowly being mutated. This is only one example, but there are numerous and definitely linkage of cancer to pollutants in environments
One solution to the whole problem with human pollution. Population control we need to thin the herd. Might even mean interfering with religious rights that allow people to have to many kids like those people on TV with 15 kids. There is no excuse for that kind of irresponsibility. The reasoning behind many kids in the distant past was to make armies and farm fields. Well with the advent of technology we don't need so many farm fields. With the advent of the nuc we fear massive wars. Problems solved now slow breeding, and reduce population.
William Waterway - We already know why this is happening to fish and frogs. Just watch the documentary film "FLOW", and you will learn the scientific basis as to what is feminizing male fish AND frogs. The persistent herbicide "atrazine", which is one of the most widely used weed killers in 80 countries - happens to be one of the most popular agricultural weed killers in the US - about 76 million pounds each year!
Atrazine is manufactured in Europe - but was banned by the European Union in 2004 because of its contamination of ground and surface waters. Atrazine is one of many chemical disruptors in our air and water today - these endocrine disruptors can cause cancer, reduce sperm counts, and feminize men.