You Drank Contraceptives Today and Didn’t Even Know It

Charles Krupa/AP

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.”

Such exposure is now quite common in the United States and other countries. A previous U.S. Geological Survey found 80 percent of water samples from 139 US rivers and streams were contaminated with drugs including contraceptives.

Celeste McGovern, writing in the National Catholic Register, describes

A landmark 2007 study, for example, described a seven-year whole-lake experiment in northern Ontario, Canada, in which tiny amounts of EE2 induced “intersex” male minnows whose testicles contained eggs, as well as altered egg production in female fishes; this ultimately resulted in the “near extinction” of the species from the lake, as well as a threat to larger fish populations.

Numerous subsequent studies across the globe have linked birth-control hormones to impaired fertility, “transgender fish” and reduced fish populations. Minnesota pollution researchers looking for the endocrine disruptors found them even in remote lakes thought to be pristine; and when they lowered cages of male lab minnows into the lakes, most of them were feminized within three weeks.

According to the United Nations, the United States has among the highest rates of contraceptive use in the world. An estimated 10.5 million American women use the contraceptive pill. The problem for others is that up to 68 percent of the active ingredients are expelled in urine and feces and much of that ends up in drinking water.

There is an infertility epidemic in the US and in other western countries. Hundreds of millions of dollars are now spent on the fertility industry including procedures for in vitro fertilization, and surrogacy, where sperm and eggs are bought and sold and wombs are rented.

It should be noted that the anti-smoking campaign did not really get rolling in America until the advent of second-hand smoke. If it can be shown that contraceptives in drinking water is causing infertility among those who want to have babies, a legal revolution against the pill could occur.


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