Is hormonal contraception harming the environment?

By BRITTANY WALDER

Staff Writer

 

In the 1960s, the advent of the “Pill” was an efficient way to prevent unplanned pregnancies.  It was more effective than other forms of birth control, and “liberated” a generation of women by putting contraception into the hands of the people it effected most.

 More than forty years later, hormonal contraception is one of the most popular methods of birth control, but recent studies have suggested that the once revolutionary Pill may be having dangerous effects on the environment.

In 2005, scientists from the University of Colorado pulled 123 fish from the water near the Boulder sewage treatment plant, and found that only 12 of the fish were male.  Of the remaining fish, 10 had both male and female characteristics.  A similar situation occurred in 2007, when University of Pittsburg scientists found similar results in the Allegheny River.  Massive amounts of the female hormone estrogen have been detected in water supplies, which many believe is causing gender ambiguity in populations of fish.

Scientists have also begun to send up red flags regarding the possibility that an elevated level of synthetic estrogen in drinking water may pose a threat to humans.  Contraceptive estrogen has been linked to cancer, unstable hormone levels, and even recently an increase in male infertility.

 The amount of research regarding the transmission of synthetic estrogen into the environment has been abnormally limited.  Whether these findings have any substantial evidence is virtually unknown, and unaddressed outside of the scientific community.  If anything, the issue should raise the questions of what we are doing to ourselves and what we are doing to our already fragile environment.

Regardless of the results of future research, it is unlikely that if adverse affects on humans and the environment are occurring that women will stop using hormonal contraception any time soon.  Once more, human beings will likely choose convenience over conservation, and neglect our responsibility to the planet and to one another—the ultimate irony in what is supposed to be such an “eco-friendly” era.

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