by David Gutierrez
September 12, 2010
Runoff from toxic
Big Pharma's drugs has
now reached the point where it's causing trans-gender
fish to appear in the wild.
This is the same water used in agricultural irrigation,
ranch animal operations and even municipal water
could be drinking the same stuff right now...)
More than 80 percent of male bass in the Potomac River on the U.S.
Atlantic coast are producing eggs or showing other female traits,
the nonprofit Potomac Conservancy has warned, in a call for more
research into the causes of intersex fish.
In a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
report, intersex fish were found in a third of all 111 sites
tested across the United States, including in major waterways
such as the Mississippi River and the Rio Grande. The phenomenon
occurred in 16 different species, but was most common in male
smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Researchers agree that the phenomenon is almost certainly caused by
the presence of pollutants in the water, including endocrine-
(hormone) disrupting chemicals and the residue of
"We have not been able to identify
one particular chemical or one particular source," said USGS
biologist Vicki Blazer. "We are still trying to get a
handle on what chemicals are important."
Among the chemicals likely to be
contributing to the problem, Blazer cited,
birth control pills and other
antibacterial products including
personal care products
(especially those containing fragrances)
"In fertilizer [and pesticides]
there's natural estrogen and testosterone and other things... so
if we can hopefully pinpoint some of those mixtures or
individual chemicals that then perhaps we could manage better,"
It has been hard to narrow down the list
of major contributors, however.
For example, Blazer tested fish up- and
downstream of sewage treatment plants to see if the factories might
be major sources of endocrine-disrupting pollutants. She found no
difference in rates of sexual abnormalities.
The Potomac Conservancy has called for more research into the
"We've got to figure out what the
heck is going on here," said the group's president, Hedrick
Belin. "And we've got to figure it out sooner rather than
later because it's clear the longer this mystery continues it's
only going to lead to bad things yet to be discovered."
Because the hormonal systems of all
vertebrates are strikingly similar, anything that has an impact on
fish living in water is likely to have an effect on humans drinking
it, as well.
Yet figuring out the specific effects of
tainted water on people may prove difficult.
"Because fish, of course, are in the
water all the time," Blazer said. "But what's in your drinking
water, what you might be exposed to through skin and food and
everything else, is another issue for people."
Even if researchers eventually figure
out which chemicals are the major contributors to sexual deformity
in fish, that may shed little light on the question.
"It's going to be a lot harder to
get to how these chemicals affect people because of course you
can't experiment on people," Blazer said.
Approximately 4.5 million residents of
the Washington D.C. area get their drinking water from the Potomac.
According to the Potomac Conservancy, individuals can help reduce
watershed pollution in part by making more careful purchasing
decisions. Consumers should reduce their use of toxic chemicals such
as pesticides, and look for more natural cosmetics and other
"The chemicals that are in personal
care products such as some of the antimicrobials, fragrances,
are endocrine disruptors," said Blazer.
"So being smart about the kinds of
products you're buying - because they are available in things
that are fragrance-free, antimicrobial-free, things like that -
are things that individuals can do."
Conservancy supporter Rep. James P.
Moran of Virginia has urged people to always take old or unused
drugs back to a pharmacy for disposal.
"Don't flush pharmaceuticals down
the toilet," he said. "They don't disappear when you flush
The Potomac Conservancy is also working
on a campaign to get pharmaceutical technologies to dispose of drugs
more safely, and calling for better water filtration technology.
"We need to get these toxins out of
our river water," Belin said.