8 Goes Green

Human Hormones Hamper Aquatic Wildlife

Posted: Jul 4, 2013 11:41 PM by Tom Casselman
Updated: Jul 5, 2013 11:03 PM

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COLUMBIA - Researchers at the United State Geological Survey (USGS) in Columbia are conducting tests on Missouri fish to measure the levels of human hormones in Missouri's waterways.

The USGS is testing to see if there is a rise in intersex characteristics in sturgeon. Those characteristics refer to a developmental abnormality where there are both male and female reproductive organs in a fish.

"We know that when fish are exposed to estrogens of many different sorts, that they can develop this abnormality," said Diana Papoulias, a research fish biologist at the USGS.

This isn't the first test the USGS has done on Missouri fish and human hormones. The USGS conducted tests on large mouth bass and human hormones proved to be a significant cause of intersex incidents in bass. The USGS conduct its tests by putting an environmentally-low amount of hormones in the water, which is similar to what is found in the natural environment.

Pills are the most direct source of human-related hormones, and disposal of the pills is a primary cause of the contamination. While it may not be intentional, the chemicals from these pills can find their ways into the water.

"They (people) can be flushing them, if they're not using the whole bottle, or they could be excreting them," Papoulias said.

Excreting the hormones is not something that people can really control, but the method of disposal is something people can change. In fact, the Columbia Solid Waste Utility has a Household Hazardous Waste Collection where residents can safely dispose of their pills, medications, and other harmful contaminants that may find their way into the environment. The household collection is open on the first and third Saturday of every month between the months of April and November to more easily facilitate the safe disposal of harmful chemicals.

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