Cause for concern? Mixtures of hormones in wastewater effluent impact fish more than thought

minnow in handNew research shows the the mixture of hormones in sewage treatment plant effluents has a greater impact on the egg production of fish than originally believed. The original understanding of how the hormones would impact egg production was based upon studies of the impact of individual hormones.

This new research looked at the impacts of estrogenic compounds in actual sewage effluents, as opposed to studying the impact of individual hormones as has been done in the past. The researchers used fathead minnows in actual sewage effluent containing the soup of estrogenic compounds from our activities. Without going into the specifics (which you can read if you want), the researchers found that the typical evaluation of using relatively simple biomarker responses for estrogenic activity alone can significantly underestimate the impacts of hormong containing sewage influents containing more complex estrogenic (and other endocrine) mixtures.

What does this mean for us? It may mean nothing, or it may indicate that our usual approach of studying exposure to one estrogenic compound, such as bisphenol A, fails to accurate predict health effects in real life since we are all exposed to complex mixtures of chemicals. We aren’t just exposed to hormone disrupting bisphenol A from our canned goods and polycarbonate plastic. No. We are also exposed to hormone disrupting phthalates in our beauty products and cleaning products. And we are exposed to other hormone disrupting chemicals. Such as the possibility of hormone disrupting effects of various food preservatives. The effect of those chemicals together may be much greater than the sum of the individual components. Or not.

It does suggest that we need to keep working to reduce our exposure to unnecessary chemicals, and keep fighting for good science.

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