Polluted Pennsylvania Rivers Found to Contain Intersex Fish

Ohio River - Courtesy of Greeblie at Flickr.com

Ohio River – Courtesy of Greeblie at Flickr.com


Just saw this from LATimes.com:

Male fish carrying eggs were found in the Susquehanna, Delaware and Ohio river basins, a sign that the water may be tainted with chemicals, the U.S. Geological Survey found in research released Monday.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has begun an extensive sampling of chemical contaminants in response to the discovery of intersex fish in three of the state’s rivers, a department spokeswoman said.

The USGS research said that two fish species…were exhibiting intersex characteristics due to exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals — hormones and hormone-mimicking chemicals that caused the male fish to produce eggs.

Estrogenic chemicals disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates the release of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This interferes with the fish’s ability to reproduce.

So where would such strange chemicals come from, chemicals powerful enough to alter the sex of fish? Anywhere and everywhere, apparently. A fish biologist and lead author of the USGS study says that the contaminant is most likely a mixture of various chemicals  from both agricultural sources (animal wastes, pesticides and herbicides) and human sources (wastewater treatment plant effluent and sewage discharges).

The biologist also says this same mixture could affect humans, too. Fish spend their every waking hour bathed in these chemicals, so it’s no wonder that they are being affected already. Humans have endocrine systems similar to that of fish, so it’s not far-fetched to say that we could be next. In fact, there are some research articles showing that children’s reproductive systems may already be showing signs of damage from chemicals contained in products we use everyday.

Interestingly enough, Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat whose district is northern Virginia, issued a statement, describing the USGS’s findings as:

…yet another example of the adverse effects on water pollution in this country and another reminder that lawmakers need to take chemical waste regulation more seriously.

I must admit I am shocked to hear any congressmen talking seriously about pollution! So often, members of Congress (especially Conservatives) portray environmentalists, conservationists, and nature-lovers in general as crazy hippies to be dismissed. What more will it take for the government to create tougher regulations on chemicals? Why are such powerful chemicals allowed to enter our waterways?

We’ve created chemicals to do all kinds of things- sanitize, dye, perfume, alter, shape, shrink, flavor, etc., etc., etc. When will we stop treating nature as something to be controlled and improved?

We must remember that all of nature is connected, even though the connection isn’t always visible or obvious. Today, it is fish. Tomorrow, it will be us. We better start taking care of this planet.

2 thoughts on “Polluted Pennsylvania Rivers Found to Contain Intersex Fish

    • It’s definitely a scary prospect. I think one thing that the average person can do is to use less chemicals in their everyday lives, but this would have to be done on a national scale for it to make a big enough impact in terms of less chemicals getting into our waterways. I’m in the process of trying to use less chemicals myself- using household cleaners with natural ingredients, buying more organic food (when I can afford it), etc.

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