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Oct 132009

Green Right Now Reports

Just when we got clear of growth hormones in our milk, now comes news that estrogens and other hormones are floating around our waterways, interfering with the biological functions of fish and wildlife — and causing yet untallied health issues for humans.

These synthetic and natural hormones from plastics, pesticides and prescription drugs that have been flushed into sewer systems are “seeping into rivers and streams and having unintended consequences on wildlife, causing some male fish to become feminized and lay eggs,” according to a news release promoting a conference on the subject.

The Tenth International Symposium on Environment and Hormones will be held later this month at Tulane University, bringing together experts from around the world to consider the latest research in this field.

Some of those findings, according to a report in Aquatic Toxicology, are:

  • That almost all of the rivers and streams tested in the United States contained some hormonally active chemicals.
  • That nearly one-third of 111 US river basics sampled contained feminized male fish that scientists suspect have been altered by pollution from industrial byproducts, pesticides and other chemicals, possibly including antidepressants, contraceptives and other medications that end up in waste water and cannot be filtered by most city waste water treatment plants.

The conference will also look at how these ambient hormones affect humans, by disrupting the endocrine system and playing a role in diseases like breast cancer.

It will include sessions about DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic form of estrogen linked to increased cancer risks and Bisphenol-A, a compound found in plastic food containers and the resin linings of food cans that has been implicated as a hormone disruptor.

Terry Collins, a chemistry expert and advocate running a campaign to get companies to anticipate how their products might act in the environment, will be a key speaker. He will discuss the potential human harm from these plastic byproducts and pharmaceuticals and explain why companies need to develop biodegradable forms.

“It is one of the hottest topics in environmental biology right now,” said John McLachlan, director of the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, in a new statement promoting the conference.

“The biological activity of these compounds both in terms of other species and, potentially, ourselves is something that scientists are becoming more and more aware of through research.”

“They all [the chemicals] end up in different places in the environment,” he says. “What do they do to the wildlife that absorb them and, more importantly, what do they do to our water sources?”

The conference will be Oct. 21-24 at the Pere Marquette Hotel in New Orleans and is open to the public and students.