Sex hormone pollution study points to contraceptives, detergents

Fish are being affected by sex hormones and similar compounds discharged in sewage effluent, a study funded by the Department of the Environment (DoE) has found.1 The chemicals, which trigger biochemical changes in the fish, include synthetic oestrogens excreted by women taking the contraceptive pill, as well as detergent breakdown products.

The study was commissioned after hermaphrodite fish were found close to a major sewage outfall. Although these occur naturally, the discovery prompted experiments to test whether fish showed hormonal responses to sewage effluent. The results were positive, with trout reacting as if they had been exposed to water containing oestrogens.

The hormones induce the production of a yolk protein, vitellogenin, in the fish liver which is normally f

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