More Estrogen Pollution Comes from Factory Farms than from Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives are often blamed for estrogen pollution in waterways. However, a new meta-study reports that oral contraceptives are not the source of most of the pollution -- the real culprits are factory farms. Residual estrogen can disrupt the reproductive health of fish, and researchers have also connected estrogens in drinking water to human fertility problems and cancers.

To better understand the sources of estrogens in drinking water, researchers reviewed 82 studies. They found that ethinylestradiol, the most commonly used synthetic estrogen in the birth control pill, accounts for less than 1 percent of the total estrogens excreted by Americans.

C&EN News reports:

“[R]unoff from large animal farms could contribute to waterway contamination, in part because -- unlike household waste -- livestock effluents are untreated. A study ... estimated that even if only 1 percent of the estrogens produced by farm animals reached waterways, they would make up 15 percent of the estrogens in the water.”

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