[Pharmwaste] Fish study raises red flag on water supply - Pittsburgh

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Thu Jun 21 09:39:33 EDT 2007


Fish study raises red flag on water supply
Thursday, June 21, 2007

By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Fish caught in the rivers near Allegheny County's storm sewer overflow pipes
contain almost twice as much of certain estrogenic chemicals that can cause
cancer, a University of Pittsburgh study has found. 

The link between sewage plant discharges and fish contaminated with those
chemicals has been established by studies in other urban areas around the
world, but the finding is particularly significant in Allegheny County, which
has more than 400 sanitary and combined sewer overflows.

The findings are a concern for public health because of the region's
dependency on the rivers for its drinking water. Dr. Conrad Dan Volz, head of
the study, said a number of reports have shown a link between high ingestion
of estrogens and hormone problems and some cancers, including testicular

Estrogenic chemicals, called xenoestrogens or estrogen-mimicking chemicals,
come from garden pesticides, plasticizers, glues, cosmetics and products that
dissolve detergents. Pharmaceutical estrogens from female hormone replacement
drugs and birth control pills are also found in sewage discharges.

"Pittsburgh has more combined sewer overflows than any other city in the
United States," said Dr. Volz, an assistant professor in Pitt's Graduate
School of Public Health. "During the summer such discharges can occur on as
much as 75 percent of the days, and the raw sewage has more estrogenic
chemicals that do not get broken down at all by the waste treatment process."

The latest results of the ongoing study by Dr. Volz, who is also a
co-director of the Pitt Cancer Institute's Center for Environmental Oncology,
will be discussed today at an institute retreat in Greensburg. 

Earlier reports of study results showed that it was difficult to identify the
gender of 85 percent of the channel catfish caught on the Allegheny,
Monongahela and Ohio rivers near the Point, and also that chemicals extracted
from all 25 randomly sampled fish caused growth of estrogen-sensitive breast
cancer cells cultured in a laboratory. Eleven of those samples produced very
aggressive cancer growth.

Dr. Volz has called those fish the "canary in the coal mine" for public
health related to drinking water, most of which comes from the rivers in
Allegheny County. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not require
that drinking water be tested for estrogen, or that the hormone be removed.

Nancy Barylak, a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority,
said it does not test discharges for estrogen or estrogen-mimicking chemicals
and isn't required to by state or federal law.

The state Fish and Boat commission has a long-standing advisory against
eating any catfish from the Ohio and Monongahela rivers, and recommends
consumption of catfish from the Allegheny River be limited to once a month.

Laurie J. Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 4555
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400
PH: (850) 245-8759
FAX: (850) 245-8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

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