Now a days there seems to be a pill for just about everything. There are antibiotics for all the new diseases that taking to many antibiotics has created; there are pills to take for the stress of living the life we’re living; and there are the pills we take to cope with the heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and other stress induced illnesses.
Of course what goes in the body also has to come out in some form or other, which in turn gets gathered up by our city’s sewer system, filtered and sent back into the water table. After the body has done assimilating whatever drug we have taken it will join the general exodus and end up in the sewers along with all the other waste products.
Well, you’re saying, so what. How much can be left to pass out of our bodies after we’re done? It’s can’t be anything worth getting excited about can it? Well obviously it can otherwise I wouldn’t be going to all this trouble to set you up for it, so I’ll just end the suspense.
Researchers with the Canadian Government, The Environmental Protection Agency in the States, and the American Chemistry Council have just released the results of a study they began in 2001. From 2001 until 2003 they treated a lake in Northern Ontario with trace elements of the synthetic hormone used in birth control pills.
The amount used was equivalent to the amount that would be discharged from a city’s sewer system. After the three years of adding the amount they sat back to see what effect if any it would have on fish populations.
The results were quite frightening, male fish literally turned into females. Instead of producing sperm they began producing eggs and their physical appearance changed so them became indistinguishable from the females. After the first year the minnow population began to crash, and after only a few years the fish was almost exterminated.
Double-checking to make sure there were no other elements at work, they monitored the fish populations in two similar sized lakes in the same area. Those populations remained completely unaffected so they could conclude that their tampering was the direct cause. (The lake used was not part of any city’s sewage system so would have been as pristine as you can get these days)
By the end of the experiment the lake’s total concentration of synthetic estrogen was about five parts per trillion, or science’s equivalent of next to nothing. Dr Karen Kidd, who headed up the research team said she was shocked by the severe reaction that the fish population had shown to such a small amount of the hormone.
While it’s not known what effect the drug has on humans when it gets into the drinking water, it would be the same amount as was released into the lake, Dr. Kidd said that these results should be treated like a “red flag” warning us of the potential danger involved for humans. With the rise in various forms of reproductive problems in human males, ranging from declining sperm counts to testicular cancer and with no cause identified as of yet, she said this should really be a priority.
It’s been long known that fish populations around sewer effluents have shown population decreases but this is the first time those reductions have been directly linked to a specific cause. Dr. Kidd said the solution is not for women to stop taking the pill, but for cities to start using proper treatment plants that can break down chemicals so they are not released into the water. Not only will it prevent estrogen from being released into the water table, but all other left over medications as well.
Of course if you live in a city like the one I do where they dump raw sewage into the water system when it rains too much there are vast improvements that have to be made to the way municipalities handle their raw sewage period. It will require an investment in infrastructure that is probably unreasonable to expect from most municipalities in North America, let alone elsewhere in the world. This is a project that all levels of government have to take responsibility for and not try to pass the buck.
Something else to contemplate is what affect other drugs “flushed” into the water table are having. A friend of mine jokes that so many people in the town where I live are on some form of stress medication or another that you could probably just drink the tap water now to if you need anti-depressants.
If governments want to pay more than lip service to the environment, if they are sincere in their efforts of trying to preserve our world, they need to worry about more than just the air we breathe. Human beings are made up of a ridiculous percentage of liquid and water is essential to our survival. Isn’t it time we took the steps to ensure that our water isn’t killing us?