Estrogen, the hormone found in birth control pills, has been shown to have effects on the genes of fish, causing alterations in their behavior. These findings came from a new doctoral thesis from Lund University in Sweden.
The estrogen in the birth control pills comes in the form of ethinyl-estradiol (EE<sub>2). And it is this chemical compound that usually gets released into the water once the pills are thrown in as waste.
The thesis assessed the effect of estrogen to three different economically important fish species, i.e.salmon, trout ,and roach. Many kinds of fish are very susceptible to high levels of the hormone in their environment, as they have more receptors for estrogen than humans.
“Even low concentrations of EE<sub>2 have an impact on fish both their behaviour and their genetics. We have seen a change in the genetic balance in fish, and that they have a harder time catching food,” Lina Nikoleris said in a press release by Lund University. Nikoleris is the doctoral student who did the thesis.
“Previous studies have shown that the fish also develop problems with procreation. This can lead to the complete disappearance of an entire fish population, and consequences for entire ecosystems,” Nikoleris added. According to Medical Daily, birth control pills are also causing fish in U.S. waters to become hermaphroditic.
In addition, the thesis also assessed the knowledge of midwives with regard to the impact birth control pills have to the environment. Unfortunately, these midwives were shown to not have sufficient knowledge about this issue. This is important since midwives provide important consultation to users of birth control pills.
“Technical solutions are not enough to purify our water we must also make sure that prescribers and women receive all the relevant information when selecting a method of birth control,” said Lina Nikoleris.