I was told by an elderly female patient last week that, “Even the simple farmers know not to drink the water downstream from the cows.” First, I laughed at this woman’s candor. But then it struck me that, although this woman was making reference to the water supply in this small town being downstream from the ranches and farms carrying pesticides and waste, there may be a bigger concern here. This town, like many others in the US, has a water supply that travels through 2+ waste water treatment facilities before arriving here.
Realistically, the waste from the cattle (and humans for that matter) has been removed from the water supply at the point that it comes out of a tap in the town. However, what few people know is that a potentially bigger concern in the water is the amount of hormones that go untreated in the water supply. With 28% of women [source] of reproductive age using oral contraceptives, there are high levels of estrogen and/or progesterone being put into our water supply in towns that receive water from waste water treatment facilities. These facilities were never designed to remove hormones from our water.
There are plenty of researchers noting the effects of these hormones on our fish populations.
It has been well documented that fish are being affected by hormones in the water. Some studies have shown the decreased fertility of fish in these waters contaminated with contraception. There have also been a number of studies documenting sex morphology changes in male fish in the contaminated water.
But it is not just the fish that may be affected.
We currently have epidemic levels of infertility in this country. Is it possible that our high levels of infertility in this country have something to do with the estrogenic hormones in our water supply? For men, these exposures to hormones can cause changes in their ability to produce sperm. For women, even after coming off of the birth control pill in order to get pregnant, she may still be receiving large amounts of hormones in her water that make it difficult for her to get pregnant.
I for one feel that while we may be preoccupied protecting our animal populations, we should also be looking for long-term ecologic solutions for our human population, as well. It is a trending topic right now that taking the BCP is linked to depression, among other concerns. So what are we going to do to get women off of the pill that may not only harm them, but also their greater community? Why aren’t we more seriously looking to fertility-awareness based methods like NFP?