UK concern rises over feminisation of fish

Posted: 6 June 2002

Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals is reducing male fish fertility in Britain's rivers and potentially putting the sustainability of fish populations at risk, the Anglo-Welsh environment agency said in a report.

The study reveals changes in the sexual characteristics of male roach and gudgeon in all of ten river catchments studied. Up to half of the fish at some of the sites tested were failing to produce any sperm.

According to the agency, the findings strengthen the evidence for actual impacts on wild populations of environmental pollution by endocrine disrupters .They are of "sufficient concern" to require a risk management strategy and to seriously consider changes to sewage treatment technologies, it said.

Whereas four years ago the agency focused its attention on industrially produced chemicals, today it stressed pollution from sewage works, particularly from steroids, including the contraceptive pill. The water industry should now "investigate" effective sewage treatment technologies that can remove priority oestrogens, it said.

Under a strategy on endocrine disrupters released two years ago (ED 17/03/00), the agency plans to identify high-risk sewage treatment works by 2003. On the basis of preliminary risk assessments, it has drawn a shortlist of 100 works that discharge steroids at sufficient concentrations to affect fish reproductive systems.

Source: ENDS Environment Daily, Issue 1186 - 26 March 2002.

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