Yesterday's newspaper contained yet another article about the feminization of fish. This makes three articles I've spotted in the last month. Nearly 6% of American male fish show signs of feminization, with some species, such as black bass, going as high as 20%. The male black bass have egg cells growing in their sexual organs.
Why does this happen? The most immediate culprit is all the birth-control pills and hormone- treatment medication that seep into rivers, spreading around estrogen. The culprit behind that is the huge number of compounds, many used in making plastic, that act as estrogen mimickers in living tissues. Such estrogen mimickers have been found in the fat of polar bears hundreds of miles from wide-scale plastic use; the compounds are carried on the wind.
What does this mean for humans? No one knows. The scientific reaction ranges from mild concern that feminized fish don't reproduce as well, to major alarm sounders who say that estrogen mimickers also have neurological effects in humans, especially fetuses, and may well be the cause of increased ADD, learning difficulties, and other neurological issues in children.
In 1998 I wrote a book about this, Maximum Light. It did not do well -- who knows why? Maybe it was badly written. Maybe it was too depressing (it is). But I thought -- and still think -- the issue is important.