River pollution threatens English fertility - paper
LONDON - The urine of English women who take the contraceptive pill is changing the sex of male fish and may be making Englishmen less fertile, a British newspaper reported.
Fears for the sperm count, in decline for decades, arose after Environment Agency research showed that half of all the male fish in low-lying English rivers are changing sex as a result of water pollution, the Independent on the weekend said.
The government-funded research showed that an \"exquisitely potent\" form of the female hormone oestrogen, found in the urine of women taking contraceptive pills, was contaminating English rivers - source of one-third of the country\'s drinking water.
Male fish are developing female characteristics in many of those rivers. \"In some stretches, all the male fish have been feminised,\" the paper said.
The Environment Agency\'s revelations, due to be published later this month, may explain the steep fall in English sperm counts. \"Danger to human fertility cannot be ruled out,\" said opposition Conservative environment spokesman Peter Ainsworth.
Professor Charles Tyler of Exeter University, one of the research team\'s leaders, said the oestrogen was so powerful that even undetectable levels could have an effect.
\"So we cannot be sure that some of these compounds, albeit of very low concentrations, aren\'t getting into our drinking water,\" the paper quoted him as saying.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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