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Hormones (estrogens) in our drinking water

  1. In the early 1990s, alarming reports about hermaphroditic fish, snails and frogs appeared worldwide. Females had masculine traits and vice versa. The Netherlands is no exception. In the Brabant Dommel almost half of the male bream have eggs in the testicular tissue. The culprits? Estrogens. The big question is whether human fertility is also threatened by the hormone disruptors.

The Pill

  1. Urine is the most important harm to the aquatic environment. Women and men urinate the natural estrogens estrone and 17ß-estradiol. And the synthetic 17a-ethinyl estradiol, from the contraceptive pill, also makes an important contribution, in addition to - probably - animal estrogens from manure. Finally, there are the xeno - or pseudo-estrogens. Brominated flame retardants, plasticizers (phthalates, bisphenol A) and other chemicals have also been found to bind to estrogen receptors. The concentrations of these substances often far exceed those of the true estrogens, but their share in the hormone disruption appears to be small (1 to 4%) due to their much weaker binding to estrogen receptors.

What about humans?

  1. Drinking water in europe is free from estrogens, so the danger comes mainly from xenoestrogens. Sperm quality is declining in many countries. And in Scandinavia, the number of testicular cancer in boys is rising rapidly. Is this because of the hormone disruptors? Researchers at the AMC in Utrecht are participating in a major European research project to answer precisely that question. They found a small disruption in sperm cell formation in animal models. However, it is unclear what consequences this will have in the long term. The question therefore remains open for the time being. However, Ghent professor Nik Van Larebeke recently alerted the Flemish media. He expects a reversal of the birth surplus in the coming decades, so more girls than boys babies. In parts of Greenland and Canada this has been the case in recent years. Twice as many girls are born as boys among the Inuit in Northern Greenland. It is almost certain that somehow the male embryos cannot develop properly due to xenoestrogens and more often cause miscarriage.

Hormone Free

  1. As a precaution, the EU and the water boards have taken measures to remove xeno-estrogens from the environment. Is this already noticeable? For the classic xenoestrogens such as PCBs and certain pesticides, a clear decrease is visible. But its use was also restricted years ago. There are currently too few measurement data for the new xenoestrogens to detect trends. The brominated flame retardants are an exception. Their concentrations are increasing in our coastal waters. Not good news for fish for the time being either. It is (too) expensive to remove all estrogens from sewage water.

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