Impact of contraceptive pill on aquatic wildlife


The contraceptive pill helps prevent pregnancy. In France, nearly 4 out of 10 women use it as a means of contraception. Nonetheless, it can have negative consequences on the environment, including aquatic fauna.

The contraceptive pill

During ovulation, the ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone that reduce the production of LH and FSH hormones. The pill contains estrogen and progesterone that prevent ovulation.

These synthetic hormones are eliminated from the body and released by wastewater into rivers.


Endocrine disruptors

Once synthetic hormones appear in the aquatic environment, all aquatic organisms are likely to ingest these synthetic hormones. They act as endocrine disruptors on the living beings who have absorbed them.

An endocrine disruptor is defined by the World Health Organization as « a substance or mixture of substances, which alters the functions of the endocrine system and induces adverse effects in an intact organism ». This substance is foreign to the organism and often has a chemical origin.

Synthetic hormones from pills are not the only ones substance that contained in this category, there are also Bisphenol A, phthalates, parabens, etc.


Effects of their absorption on the aquatic environment

Afterwards, the aquatic environment ingests these endocrine disruptors, it is hormones will be responsible for the development of sexual organs and reproduction that will be disturbed. Indeed, the fertility rate of mammals will be decreased.

Regarding the fish, their fertility rate will be diminished as well. As for males, they can start to produce yolk. Yolk is the main source of nutrients in eggs. They are not able to throw it out of their body since they do not lay eggs. It will accumulate in the blood, kidneys, and liver. This can lead to necrosis that consequently will fetch to the death of these organs.

In extreme cases, a species of fish can change its gender. Consequently, some fish populations are entirely female.


The challenge

To sum up, the contraceptive pill has an impact on the aquatic environment, even if it is not the major factor. Certainly, we should reduce its impact, as well as other endocrine disruptors. The only way to prevent the emergence of this phenomenon is to reduce its production and usage. However, reducing the usage of birth control pills seems to be difficult, regarding its other benefits. The challenge would then be to create a filter to prevent synthetic hormones from reaching waterways.


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