River Pollution Linked to Male Fertility Problems
A long term, three year study by he combined forces of Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has uncovered new evidence that river pollution may be linked to the rising incidence of male fertility.
Testosterone blocking chemicals were found in 30 UK rivers, specifically, these were Anti-androgens - chemicals found in medicines and pesticides. They are known (even at small levels) to block male hormones and subsequently affect male fertility.
Male fish are known to be affected, and Scientists believe it is also a factor in the reduction in male sperm counts over the past fifty years.
Previous studies had linked oestrogen in rivers from the contraceptive pill and industrial chemicals to be impacting on male fish to such an extent that some were changing sex, but this new study shows that fish (and humans) are being exposed to more chemicals than previously thought.
Professor Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter said
"Our research shows that a much wider range of chemicals than we previously thought is leading to hormone disruption in fish. This means that the pollutants causing these problems are likely to be coming from a wide variety of sources. Our findings also strengthen the argument for the cocktail of chemicals in our water leading to hormone disruption in fish, and contributing to the rise in male reproductive problems. There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one, previously unknown, factor."
Prof Tyler said
"There is good evidence for more problems in male reproductivty in human males in the last fifty or sixty years," he said. "The anti-androgens are possibly a contributing factor."
The study will now concentrate on where the anti-androgens are coming from and the affect on human health.
Scientists will now enter discussions with the Environment Agency to determine whether levels of the pollutant need to be controlled.
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