25 February 2011
The Pill not to blame for estrogen in drinking water
by Kate Melville
The American Chemical Society says there is a widespread public misconception about the estrogen-related hormones detected in drinking water supplies. Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers Amber Wise, Kacie O'Brien and Tracey Woodruff describe how their analysis shows that, contrary to popular belief, birth control pills account for less than 1 percent of the estrogens found in the drinking water supplies in the United States.
Around 12 million women of reproductive age in the United States take the pill and their urine contains traces of the female sex hormone. Hence, the belief that oral contraceptives are the major source of estrogen in lakes, rivers and streams, the researchers say. This environmental estrogen contamination has been linked to birth defects, male sub-fertility and other disorders.
"Our analysis found that the main estrogen in oral contraceptives has a lower predicted concentration in U.S. drinking water than natural estrogens from animal waste, which can be used untreated as a farm fertilizer and from synthetic estrogens, such as industrial sources," Woodruff says. "In addition, everyone excretes hormones in their urine, not just women taking the pill. The contribution of oral contraceptives is still relatively small when accounting for its potency."
More about estrogen and drinking water from the ACS
Blue-green algae affecting reproductive health
Concern Over Environmental Estrogen
Estrogen contamination in bottled water "just the tip of the iceberg," say scientists
Unnatural selection: Courtesy of The Pill
Source: American Chemical Society