If you and your family still drink water right out of the tap, you might want to reconsider in light of a new study released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). For the past several years, we’ve been warning our readers that pharmaceutical drug residues persist in unfiltered tap water, and the USGS has now confirmed that birth control drugs are among those present, threatening a possible widespread infertility epidemic in the coming years.
Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the USGS study looked at the effects of the synthetic hormone 17a-ethinylestradiol, or EE2, a common additive in most contraceptive pills, on Japanese medaka fish exposed to it through drinking water during their first week of development. Although the exposed fish and their immediate offspring appeared to be unaffected by the drugs, the second generation was affected.
According to the National Catholic Register, the second generation of exposed medaka fish experienced difficulty fertilizing their eggs, suffering an astounding 30 percent reduction in reproduction capacity. Their embryos were also much less likely than those of their parents to survive. Those that did survive, representing the third generation of fish, also suffered the effects of exposure to 17a-ethinylestradiol, showing a 20 percent impairment in fertility and survival rates.
“This study shows that even though endocrine disruptors may not affect the life of the exposed fish, it may negatively affect future generations,” explained lead author Ramji Bhandari, a USGS visiting scientist and assistant research professor from the University of Missouri. “If similar trends were observed in subsequent generations, a severe decline in overall population numbers might be expected by the F4 generation.”
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in public water and tainted food are destroying the male species
The paper also looked at the effects of exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), a prolific endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) that is still used in the manufacture of plastics, thermal receipt paper and food can linings. Just like 17a-ethinylestradiol, BPA was found to disrupt the normal reproductive cycles of the medaka fish, impairing their ability to produce offspring and maintain survival in subsequent generations.
If this can happen to fish, it most certainly can happen to humans as well, say scientists. All sorts of EDCs, chemical byproducts and industrial waste products are present in American sewers, and existing water purification systems are unable to capture all of them. This means that people who drink the water from an average city tap are also downing trace amounts of contraceptives, antidepressants, statins, SSRIs and more.
You might recall the Associated Press (AP) report we covered back in 2008 that found that the drinking water consumed by some 41 million Americans is contaminated with pharmaceutical drugs. AP researchers who took water samples from 50 of the largest cities in the U.S., as well as from 52 smaller communities, found that nearly all of them contained traces of painkillers, hormone drugs, antibiotics and more.
A USGS survey conducted between 1999 and 2000 made similar findings, concluding that at least 80 percent of water samples collected from 139 American rivers and streams in 30 states were contaminated with a range of pharmaceuticals ranging from antibiotics and antidepressants to hormone replacement pills and contraceptives.
“…male reproductive organs are sensitive to estrogens, which interfere with normal function,” says Frederick vom Saal, a professor in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri, another one of the study’s authors. “[E]strogens have a contraceptive effect in males,” he added, with the National Catholic Review noting that EE2 has been linked to causing testicular tumors.
“EE2 can cause effects in human tissues at concentrations in blood below one part per trillion, so this is an extremely potent drug.”
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