Estrogen continues to pollute United States and European rivers and drinking water, but birth control pills should no longer be blamed, according to a new study. The feminization of fish and other aquatic life is well-documented, but the finger should more accurately be pointed to human, industrial and agricultural sources. Up to 90 percent of estrogens in the environment may actually come from animal waste, said the study, as animals excrete natural and pharmaceutical hormones—and 13 times more solid waste than humans. Prescription drugs, like hormone replacement therapy, also add to the mix, as do industrial and agricultural pesticides, which can mimic estrogen.
While many water treatment plants remove 80 to 99 percent of synthetic estrogens, those coming from agricultural sources typically enter waterways without treatment.
The study, “Are oral contraceptives a significant contributor to the estrogenicity of drinking water?” is published in Environmental Science & Technology.