Endocrine Disrupting chemicals cause reproductive confusion in fish and others…..
In 1994, we were intrigued by a short two paragraph article in Science News claiming that male fish swimming downstream of wastewater treatment plants showed indications of being both male and female, as their male sexual organs had produced immature female eggs. What was going on?
Months later, RRWPC staged a day long workshop that included presentations by some of the top scientists in the field: including Theo Colborn, Lou Guillette, and Howard Bern. Google their names to learn about their work!
Since our conference, Environmental Estrogens: Pathway to Extinction, took place in May, 1995; we have been tracking and writing about this topic ever since. The study of endocrine disruption was brand new then, having first become known as a result of Theo Colborn’s efforts. Her Wingspread Conference in 1991, brought top scientists together from around the world to the Racine, Wisconsin Center, to share stories of the many biological anomalies found in numerous species, including birds, fish, frogs, & humans.
By the end of 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) had conducted studies providing the first nationwide count of intersex fish in American rivers. A November 30, 2009 article (Something in the Water is Feminizing Male Fish. Are we next?) by Eric Hagerman states, “Overall, 44% of the largemouth and smallmouth bass dissected turned out to be intersex, but at some sites 91% of the male largemouth bass were affected. Biologist Jo Ellen Hinck’s team found intersex males at 34 of 111 sites in 8 of 9 major river basins, including the Columbia, the Colorado, and the Mississippi.” This was only the tip of the iceberg.
Years before, RRWPC attempted to persuade the City of Santa Rosa to conduct intersex studies of Laguna fish. At first they agreed, but two weeks later changed their mind. After ten years of our nagging State and Regional Boards about this issue, a study was conducted last year to determine whether constituents of emerging concern (CEC’s), possibly including endocrine disrupting chemicals, resided in the Russian River. (Pilot Monitoring of Constituents of Emerging Concern (CEC’s) in the Russian River Watershed) The study was overseen by the State’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP). Scientists from the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project Authority (SCCWRPA) and the San Francisco Estuary Institute also took part in the study and published their Technical Report in March, 2018.
(CEC’s is a term adopted by agencies to designate unregulated chemicals that cause health concerns and about which more needs to be known. While endocrine disrupting chemicals are considered CEC’s, the reverse is not the case. Over 1400 chemicals have been identified so far as having endocrine disrupting impacts that potentially cause a wide range of effects, including birth defects, cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autism, Parkinson’s and more. Many pesticides and herbicides have been identified as having endocrine disrupting properties, as well as many personal care products, building repair products, plastic items, store receipts, etc.)
Although our local scientific study was limited, they examined 11 CEC’s in water samples and 20 CEC’s in sediment, water, and fish tissue. While some CEC’s were frequently detectable, most were below monitoring trigger levels established by the State’s expert panel. (We don’t know how many of the CEC’s studied had endocrine disrupting effects, as the study did not differentiate.) RRWPC questions the concept of ‘trigger levels’ here, since endocrine disrupting (EDs) chemicals are bioactive at extremely low levels as well as higher ones. Furthermore, unlike other toxins, they have unpredictable effects, and toxicity impacts cannot be accurately predicted. While many toxins are generally rated safe at low doses, and agencies use conventional risk assessment to set regulatory toxicity limits, this does not work with EDs because of the small dose effects (sometimes in the parts per trillion range) and unpredictability. By lumping EDs with other toxins and promoting the idea that very low exposures are safe, they are creating potentially dangerous risk, especially with small children, pregnant women, elderly and health impaired. Chemical industries go to great lengths to promote their products as safe, even when they know they are not.
The outcome of the Regional Board’s recent study concluded that enough toxins were found to merit further sampling and studies. We are hopeful that their current plans to regionalize monitoring programs will provide resources to continue this work, since they don’t have funds now. (RRWPC writings on endocrine disruption issues, including citation of works and studies, can be found on our website at www.rrwpc.org )
In its efforts to greatly expand wastewater reuse and implement ‘toilet to tap’ (putting highly treated wastewater directly into the drinking water supply), the State’s Scientific Panel on CEC’s has failed to respond to the issue of ‘low dose impacts’ as it would require a much more rigorous risk analysis protocol. The State has chosen not to include any endocrinologists on their panel, in spite of requests to do so. They won’t address the issue of low dose effects, while circulating articles on how tasting events demonstrate, through blind demonstrations, that citizens prefer drinking the wastewater laced substance.
For the last ten years, RRWPC has lobbied the State Water Board to address the issue of low dose impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals, but they have refused. They have greatly expanded the use of tertiary wastewater for irrigation, often saturating areas where children play (Ask your school superintendent if they irrigate with treated wastewater. If so, there are unregulated chemicals in that water that can cause harm, although officials are unlikely to admit it.) Many of the impacts affect pregnant women and small children.
Two major court decisions recently on endocrine disrupting herbicide and pesticide…..
These landmark decisions will greatly impede the chemical industry’s regular prioritization of corporate wealth over customer health. According to an announcement by Pesticide Action Network-North America, “The chlorpyrifos win is the outcome of a case we filed with partners way back in 2007, when there was already enough evidence to justify a ban.” A panel of judges ordered EPA to ban Chlorpyrifos, a brain harming pesticide, within 60 days.
A national environmental legal group, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated in their recent newsletter: “What’s more, exposure to chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used insecticides in the United States, is extremely difficult to avoid. Farmers across the United States spray approximately five million pounds of it every year on crops like apples, oranges, broccoli, and walnuts―more than one million pounds of it in agriculture-rich California alone.”
“Part of a family of nerve agents developed during World War II, chlorpyrifos, unsurprisingly, has incredible potential for harm. Research shows that exposure to this pesticide can increase the risk for behavioral issues and serious neurological damage in children, including ADHD, developmental delays, and lower IQs. Scientists and doctors consider these neurological affects to be “permanent, irreversible, and lifelong.”
The other ruling was nothing less than earth shattering. A San Francisco court recently awarded $289 million in damages to DeWayne Johnson, a school grounds keeper, whose terminal cancer was linked to glyphosate in Roundup, the most popular herbicide on the market. Defendant Monsanto, (recently purchased by Bayer for $63 billion), will appeal. For years Roundup had been touted as perfectly safe, but not long ago, glyphosate, its main ingredient, was determined to be a probable carcinogen. Bayer will challenge this decision, but there are 475 other cases involving glyphosate, that can now be filed with great hope for success. We just learned that Santa Rosa has banned the use of Roundup at city parks. Good for them! Now if they would only stop using irrigated tertiary wastewater in places where children play!
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