National Geographic has recently run an article on intersex fish being found in wildlife refuge waters. While this can occur sporadically in nature, a trend for higher numbers of intersexed fish, amphibians, and reptiles has been identified over the past 30 years. While we may have anticipated this happening in highly polluted streams near industrialized areas, it is now being found in agricultural and non-industrialized areas.
What are hormone mimics? In general a number of compounds including some naturally-occurring chemicals have the ability to mimic natural hormones in animals & humans. Most of the research has been on estrogen mimics causing males to become hermaphrodites. Early indicator species include small mouth bass - but early research also found a huge impact in alligators in Florida in the 1990s.
What is important is the concentration of hormone mimics in waters causing disruption in indicator species. We do not know the long run impact on higher trophic level organisms including humans. So, the next generation of wastewater permits will start to also include reduction of hormone mimics and pharmaceuticals that are currently passing through conventional wastewater treatment systems. The issue is how to remove these compounds without excessive costs or other environmental impacts.
I am including a link the National Geographic story. A online search will also give further references on hormone mimics and regulators efforts to remove problematic chemicals from waters.
Erik Rumbaugh has been involved in biological waste treatment for over 20 years. He has worked with industrial and municipal wastewater facilities to ensure optimal performance of their treatment systems. He is a founder of Aster Bio (www.asterbio.com) specializing in biological waste treatment.
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