Birth control pills are some of the most widely-used drugs in the world despite the potential health implications. In the US alone, an estimated 12 million women are on the pill. Now a new study found that oral contraceptives are affecting the environment in the strangest way: The pill is turning certain fish species into transgenders.
Confirmed: Contraceptive drugs are turning fish into transgenders
Professor Charles Tyler, a leading eco-toxicologist from the University of Exeter in Britain, and colleagues discovered that chemicals found in contraceptives and common household products (including by-products of cleaning agents, plastics, and cosmetics) that are flushed down the drain are giving rise to transgender or intersex fish in British rivers.
Their data showed that one fifth (or 20 percent) of male river fish, coming from 50 different sites, were displaying more feminine traits and some were even producing eggs in their testicles. The team also reported that the intersex fish were less aggressive and had a lower sperm count. All these factors combined made them less competitive, reducing their chances to breed successfully. Furthermore, offspring of transgender fish can be more sensitive to the effects of toxic exposure.
Tyler recently gave a keynote speech on the topic of transgender fish at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the Fisheries Society in the British Isles at Exeter University, which was held at the beginning of July.
Tyler’s key findings originate from a 2008 research project — Roach, Sex, and Gender-Bending Chemicals: The Feminization of Wild Fish in English Rivers — he was involved in. During the study, the team identified more than 200 chemicals in river water.
According to researchers, oral contraceptives contain potent endocrine disruptors that are altering fish’s natural behavior, feminizing male fish. The drugs also caused male fish to grow eggs in their testicles.
Image courtesy of: ilikegranola.com