Did you know that wildlife researchers have discovered feminized male fish in lakes and rivers around the world?
Yes, female egg cells have been found growing inside the testes of smallmouth and largemouth bass.
There are some species of fish that are normally hemaphrodites (having both male and female sex organs), but bass are not one such species. Instead, this condition is called intersex - having the characteristics of both sexes - and is suspected to be an indicator of exposure to environmental estrogen. These environmental estrogens can come from both natural and synthetic chemicals (such as from pharmaceuticals, pesticides and personal care products) and can mimic or block sex hormones. In severe cases, intersex can make fish sterile. Smallmouth bass are particularly sensitive to environmental pollutants, so they are a good indicator of what’s to come. Even more concerning, though, is the fact that similar intersex conditions have occurred in a variety aquatic animals, including alligators, turtles, and frogs. Again, this phenomenon is understood to be caused by hormonal disruption from certain chemicals.
These aquatic animals are a harbinger of what’s to come. Our waterways are polluted...which means that our environment is polluted. And, it’s only a matter of time before this pollution starts affecting humans.
In fact, we are already seeing lower sperm counts globally. Precocious puberty is also on the rise in children. And, we are already seeing an uptick in intersex children exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at key fetal development points.
This obviously has a profound effect on fertility, but it also has far-reaching consequences for other disease states like cancer.
We clearly need better regulation in this area. Until that time, though, we each need to take responsibility for the environment around us and the chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis. This is scary stuff and ignoring it won’t make it go away. Be informed, be proactive, be vigilant.