You are likely consuming contraceptives whether you know it or not through your drinking water, according to a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey.
The study, published in the March issue of Scientific Reports, measured the amount of the synthetic hormone EE2, a common contraceptive ingested by women around the world, and found it "present in aquatic environments throughout the United States and many other countries."
Researchers tested whether exposure to EE2 has any adverse health outcomes for the "mekada fish" in Japan. What they found could have an impact on how Americans view their own drinking water and the nearly universal use of the Pill to avoid pregnancy.
Researchers looked at "transgenerational consequences" of exposure to EE2 and found "a reduced rate of fertilization and an increased incidence of embryo mortality." These consequences were found in several generations of fish. They also found "transgenerational effects on survival and fecundity, which consequently disrupted population dynamics."
The study showed the biggest impact on exposure to human contraceptives occurred in subsequent generations of fish with a 30 percent reduction in fertility rates. This occurred even if the fish had not ingested the chemical directly. It was an abnormality that was passed on from previous generations.
"This study shows that even though endocrine disruptors may not affect the life of the exposed fish, it may negatively affect future generations," said Ramji Bhandari, a USGS visiting scientist and University of Missouri assistant research professor. "If similar trends were observed in subsequent generations, a severe decline in overall population numbers might be expected by the F4 generation."