Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


Fish feminization is widespread in Great Britain and in the US. The causes now appear to be a mixture of chemicals, including excreted byproducts of birth control pills and industrial chemicals.

In Our Stolen Future we discussed the case of feminized fish in Great Britain's rivers and presented the evidence available to date that sewage treatment plants were releasing something that acted like estrogen. In a series of studies, John Sumpter and his colleagues examined, but rejected at the time, that the substance might be a form of estrogen excreted by women in their urine after taking oral contraceptives. They showed that other substances, especially nonylphenol, were both capable of causing feminization and present in the water at levels sufficient to cause the problem. At the time, Sumpter said: "We don't know if the mixture is related to alkylphenol polyethoxylates. It could be a single family of chemicals or a mixture of detergents, pesticides and plasticizers." It appeared likely that "a range of chemicals" were contributing to the effect. This story has developed significantly since OSF's publication, and it appears that indeed the urinary byproduct of oral contraceptives is involved in some cases, but not all. Scientists are also discovering that fish in US rivers have been affected, as well as salt-water fish inhabiting estuaries around Britain's coasts.

EDC mixtures in the news

More news about

15 December 2000. Scientists publish a report in Environmental Health Perspectives detailing a high proportion of wild chinook salmon breeding in Washington State's Columbia River have been sex reversed, from female to male. More...

6 September 2000. The BBC reports that endocrine disruption of fish is widespread in northern Europe, with confirmations obtained from 5 of 7 countries examined. Up to 100% of fish are affected in some river systems. A combination of industrial compounds and human urinary metabolites (from drugs) appear to be the cause. More...

March 2000. Researchers report that when eggs of a fish, the Japanese medaka, are exposed to DDT, genetic males are feminized so thoroughly that they can become fully fertile females. More...







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