Chemicals In the Water Aren't Turning Frogs Gay, But They Might Create Transgendered Fish

Bryan Michalek | July 5, 2017
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In a recent study, researchers found that chemicals released into aquatic ecosystems from contraceptives and other chemically engineered products are causing genetic mutations in fish populations, and even turning them into the opposite gender.

According to the report, a fifth of male fish has suffered mutations that have made them transgendered because of chemicals from contraceptive pills being flushed down household drains. Reduced sperm quality, the development of ovarian tissues, and less aggressive competitive behavior are some of the traits scientists are finding in these affected fish populations.

Charles R. Tyler, one of the two researchers on the project that began in 2008, is discussing his findings this week at the 50th Anniversary Symposium of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles. The project was called Roach, Sex, and Gender-Bending Chemicals: The Feminization of Wild Fish in English Rivers.

Tyler told The Independent,“If you look in terms of what gets into a fish’s liver or gonad, the analysis of the chemicals it contains is a bit of a blueprint in terms of what’s flushed down the toilet."

"We’re starting to establish not just effects on gender, but that they can also affect other physiological processes in the fish as well,” he added.

More than 200 chemicals were identified in the water that researchers studied, and male fish were found to be feminized because of high estrogen levels theorized to have come from the residue of flushed contraceptive drugs. Tyler discussed how these changes won’t kill fish outright, but they will affect the growth of fish populations, saying, “If they are moderate to severely feminized, they are compromised as individuals and they really struggle to pass their genes on.”

He proposed making some changes to curb the effect our chemical usage has on these vulnerable populations, explaining, “If we get sufficient evidence indicating there’s a high likelihood of a population effect, perhaps we need to be more proactive about restricting...or banning these chemicals.”

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