Oconee River pollution may be curbing fish reproduction

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Is something in the water turning fish in the Oconee River into sexual freaks - making male fish a little girly and impeding the ability of female fish to reproduce?

Robert Bringolf, a professor of fish biology and ecotoxicology in the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, suspects so. This summer he has launched a research project to find out for sure.

"It's fairly predictable, if you look in any area that receives wastewater effluent," he said.

In other American urban rivers, researchers have repeatedly detected measurable quantities of the chemicals, called environmental estrogens. Some are natural sex hormones produced in female ovaries. But scientists also find synthetic estrogens, used in birth control pills and for hormone replacement therapy, and so-called estrogen mimickers that affect humans and other animals in the same way estrogens do.

Until now, no one has tried to measure the chemicals' impact in Georgia rivers.

"To our knowledge, nothing along these lines has been done in the state of Georgia," Bringolf said.

The researchers suspect that even fish exposed for a short time - especially at critical stages of development - might suffer effects that may not show up until the fish are adults and try to reproduce.

Ultimately, Bringolf wants to find out how these chemicals are affecting river ecology - whether the estrogens' harmful effects are limited to relatively few fish, or spread in the whole web of stream life.

Male fish exposed to even small levels of environmental estrogens in other researchers' studies - 5 or 6 parts per trillion - begin producing female egg proteins, and females begin producing fewer viable eggs.

Scientists also believe that some pesticides like the herbicide atrazine also interfere with the endocrine system and could be linked to widespread developmental problems they're seeing in frogs.

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Riverman1 07/17/09 - 07:57 am
This represents why it is

This represents why it is important to maintain adequate flows in all our rivers...including the Savannah.

emergencyfan 07/17/09 - 08:05 am
I would have thought it more

I would have thought it more aptly represents the need to keep pesticides and waste water out of our rivers.

Freedbygrace 07/17/09 - 11:30 am
WOOOOAAAA! I am sure you both

WOOOOAAAA! I am sure you both are very mistaken. Scientists, Doctors (AMA), and Psycologists have all agreed that this behavior is born and bred into a living creature, not acquired thru some chemical injestion or moral life style choice and cannot be changed?? You both lack political correctness, are uncompassionate, and hate crime filled religious right-wing zealots! OR COULD IT BE- that this and choices also affect humans in the same way???

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