The Pill Off The Hook For River Estrogen

Discovery News

Analysis by Tim Wall
Thu Feb 17, 2011 08:09 AM ET

Until recently, humans took the blame for unusually high levels of estrogen-like chemicals in rivers, lakes and streams. Some thought it was birth control pills but other evidence pointed to agricultural wastes.

BLOG: Poop, Not the Pill, Causes Estrogen Pollution

But, new research suggests a form of algae may be contributing to the problem, which can cause males of some fish, amphibians, and reptiles change behaviors and even develop female physical characteristics.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, caused responses in zebrafish similar to those caused by estrogen-like chemicals, the results of te study were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers found that young fish exposed to blue-green algae showed a chemical marker known to result from estrogen exposure. The marker didn’t show up when the fish were only exposed to the known toxin that the blue-green algae produce.

So the scientists think there must be a previously-unknown chemical released by the algae that caused the estrogen-like effects. That means that algae blooms, or sudden large bursts of algae growth, could have even greater health consequences for animals.

Algae blooms are already known to harm wildlife by sucking oxygen out of the water and producing a natural toxin. The authors of the study, from the University of Tennessee and the University of Plymouth called for a revision of environmental monitoring programs in order to keep an eye out for these newly observed estrogen-like chemicals.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.