[Pharmwaste] Oconee River pollution may be curbing fish reproduction - article, GA

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Fri Jul 17 10:32:17 EDT 2009

Oconee River pollution may be curbing fish reproduction

By Lee Shearer | Morris News Service 
Friday, July 17, 2009 6:58 a.m.2 
ATHENS, Ga. -- Is something in the water turning fish in the Oconee River
into sexual freaks - making male fish a little girly and impeding the ability
of female fish to reproduce? 

Robert Bringolf, a professor of fish biology and ecotoxicology in the
University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources,
suspects so. This summer he has launched a research project to find out for

"It's fairly predictable, if you look in any area that receives wastewater
effluent," he said. 

In other American urban rivers, researchers have repeatedly detected
measurable quantities of the chemicals, called environmental estrogens. Some
are natural sex hormones produced in female ovaries. But scientists also find
synthetic estrogens, used in birth control pills and for hormone replacement
therapy, and so-called estrogen mimickers that affect humans and other
animals in the same way estrogens do. 

Until now, no one has tried to measure the chemicals' impact in Georgia

"To our knowledge, nothing along these lines has been done in the state of
Georgia," Bringolf said. 

The researchers suspect that even fish exposed for a short time - especially
at critical stages of development - might suffer effects that may not show up
until the fish are adults and try to reproduce. 

Ultimately, Bringolf wants to find out how these chemicals are affecting
river ecology - whether the estrogens' harmful effects are limited to
relatively few fish, or spread in the whole web of stream life. 

Male fish exposed to even small levels of environmental estrogens in other
researchers' studies - 5 or 6 parts per trillion - begin producing female egg
proteins, and females begin producing fewer viable eggs. 

Scientists also believe that some pesticides like the herbicide atrazine also
interfere with the endocrine system and could be linked to widespread
developmental problems they're seeing in frogs.

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
P: 850.245.8759
F: 850.245.8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

Mercury: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

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