When it comes to drinking water, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. Not by a long shot. I suspect that this tidbit of information isn’t news to you. Flint, Michigan was a rude awakening, though it’s been a while and even though the lead contamination is still a current problem, media has moved along to bigger and better Oh My Gods.
Today I was talking to Zackery, a student at Agnes Stewart Middle School; he was just finishing up on his Eighth grade final presentation where he’s been researching contaminated water. He was looking at a chart that graphed the various drugs that has infiltrated our drinking water supply. When asked what the most alarming thing that he had learned so far, he said that Marijuana is off the charts in terms of drugs. Opiods and antidepressants round out the top three.
Zack went on to explain that when someone thinks of drug pollution problems, they tend to think of drugs that are disposed, either thrown in the trash or flushed, but what people need to pay attention to are the drugs we excrete. It never occurred to me. I know that in many cases people tend to pee out a lot more vitamins and other supplements than our body can absorb, but I tend to be of the out of sight, out of mind kind of person.
According to one source, http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/drugs-in-the-water, they don’t know what the long-term consequences are to humans, at least not yet, but perhaps fish are acting like the canary in the coal mine. Estrogen is being blamed for altering not only the ratio of female to male fish, but a problem with intersexing has been discovered.
I don’t have the slightest idea as to the gender of the fish pictured above, but this is what popped up when I searched for intersexed fish. According to Fishfeel.org, fish with high levels of estrogen not only display male and female organs, but they are also more aggressive.
Due to premature menopause, prescription estrogen was recommended. But when I learned that I was ingesting pregnant horse urine, I switched to a synthetic form. And then research concluded that there was more harm than good with the product, so I stopped completely. Maybe I could have avoided osteoporosis if I stayed on the regimen. Hard to say.
Back to the subject at hand. What can be done? Estrogen is going to be excreted whether it be natural or synthetic; it’s just part of the flow of nature. I would think that more could be done with waste water before it becomes part of the biosphere of rivers and other bodies of water.
Digging deeper. I have no reason to not believe FishFeel.org, though Harvard is probably a tad bit more reliable. We all know that data can be used and misconstrued to fit an agenda. I try to persuade students to use as many .org and .edu web sites as often as possible. And even then a wide range of sources is the best answer.
“… contrary to what has been stated or implied by media reports and anti-contraception advocates, synthetic estrogen from birth control pills is not the sole or primary source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in water.”
There’s so much we don’t know, and so many times we don’t learn from our mistakes. At one point, they believed that smoking was actually a beneficial thing; after all, Olympic athletes didn’t show any adverse effects from smoking and back in the late thirties and early forties, they probably weren’t even using filtered cigarettes. I wonder how many of those athletes lives were cut short because of ignorance.
Fish are great indicators of the stress water systems are experiencing due to inadequate waste water management. Another great article, Sex-Changing Chemicals Can Wipe Out Fish, Study Shows (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/05/070521-sex-fish.html.)
There are so many different directions that Zack could go with his research project. Too many drugs, too little time. Perhaps with the newly passed law making marijuana legal in Oregon has caused him to travel in that direction. Speaking of directions, I have a new throng of kids making their way into C102. Maybe another blog will be inspired.