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 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, which are not removed by municipal sewage treatment plants, enter 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 2010, Center litigation led the EPA to finally announce a nationwide ban on one of the most toxic endocrine disruptors: endosulfan. In 2015, the EPA announced a plan to analyze the impacts of atrazine and glyphosate — the two most commonly used pesticides in the United States — on 1,500 endangered plants and animals in the United States under the terms of a settlement reached with the Center. This led to a 2016 preliminary risk assessment that showed that amount of the herbicide atrazine that’s released into the environment in the United States is likely harming most species of plants and animals. Also in 2016, under the terms of a historic settlement reached with the Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a plan to analyze the impacts of atrazine and glyphosate on 1,500 endangered U.S. plants and animals.

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.

 

Frog photo by Kaili Willows/Flickr