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ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS

Just say no to wildlife on drugs — biology-altering chemicals, that is. Thanks to pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plasticizers, cleaning agents, cosmetics, antibiotics, contraceptives, veterinary and illicit drugs, sunscreen and caffeine intentionally introduced into waterways and aquatic habitats, endangered species are ever more exposed to chemicals that disrupt the function of their endocrine systems and can hamper their survival.

Endocrine disruptors interfere with natural hormone functions, affecting the reproduction, development, and growth of fish and wildlife, as well as humans. As drinking water sources and aquatic wildlife habitats are being increasingly and unnecessarily contaminated by endocrine disruptors, the effects on species can be profound, from chemical castration of male frogs to intersex fish that can’t reproduce.

Endocrine disruptors enter waterways via wastewater effluent and urban and agricultural runoff. Pharmaceuticals and excreted drugs move untreated through municipal sewage treatment plants and return to our waterways as a toxic soup of treated wastewater effluent laden with endocrine disruptors. Spray-drift and runoff of pesticides from agriculture, livestock waste runoff from confined animal feeding operations, aquaculture, and leaching from municipal landfills and septic systems can also introduce endocrine disruptors into the environment.

The Center is taking action to get these poisons out of our waterways and ecosystems. In January 2010, we petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to establish water-quality criteria for numerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals under the Clean Water Act, the first step in regulating and eliminating persistent and widespread endocrine disruptors. In the same month, we submitted comments opposing Nevada’s plan to allow the discharge of 25 million gallons per day of effluent into Las Vegas Wash and Lake Mead without requiring the removal of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The Center also requested that Nevada add contaminated areas around Lake Mead to that state’s list of impaired waters due to pollution by endocrine-disrupting chemicals and establish and enforce limitations on the discharge of those chemicals. After much Center litigation, in 2010 the EPA finally announced a nationwide ban on one of the most toxic endocrine disruptors: endosulfan.

We continue to force the EPA to address the impacts of pesticides, many of which act as endocrine disruptors, on endangered species through our Pesticides Reduction campaign.

 

California red-legged frog photo © Colin Brown