As if invasive species of all types weren’t bad enough, the Great Lakes are beginning to suffer through a threat of a different type.
Birth control pills. Estrogen, specifically. The average concentrations are now detectable, and even though they are typically measured in parts per trillion, the effect on fish is being seen near Detroit and other places. The synthetic estrogen in birth control pills is far more potent than naturally occurring estrogen, and with 100 million women worldwide taking the pill, our waterways are slowly being feminized. The Great Lakes basin is no exception. The effects of estrogen on male fish take time and if the pollution were to stop today, several generations of fish will come and go before the concentrations drop detectably. We eat that fish.
Estrogens and estrogen-mimics (like Atrazine and other pesticides) are a serious concern since so many people – around 5 million – eat fish caught from the lakes. The chemicals accumulate in the fatty parts of the fish, and we also accumulate them. I wonder if this is one reason guys get man-boobs.
The EPA pretty much ignores the effects of birth control pills in our waterways but does express concern for pesticides and other estrogen-mimics. I have no doubt that the EPA will do little to change this, until at least the next Administration takes over.
Very little to date has been written about the feminization of our water. Guess there are better fear-mongering topics elsewhere.