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April 4, 2011

New Study Reveals only 1% of Estrogen in Drinking Water Comes from Birth Control Pills

drinking waterA new study by Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, associate professor and director of the University of California-San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, indicates that birth control pills only account for about 1% of estrogen in the drinking water supply.

There have been concerns that the estrogen contained in birth control pills causes environmental health concerns such as intersex fish, fish showing female traits such as egg production. But this new study sheds new light on the source of estrogen in water. Woodruff and her colleagues analyzed the source of estrogen in drinking water, and discovered that it is mostly coming from sources such as livestock waste, soy and dairy foods, and other pharmaceuticals, but not birth control pills. This study contradicts the idea that estrogen absorbed by the body from birth control pills is excreted in urine and eventually makes its way into the water supply. Instead, this research indicates that most of the hormone is removed during processing at waste water treatment plants.

The effect on humans of hormones in water is controversial. Woodruff’s research focused on the source of estrogen in our drinking water supply and not the effects of the hormones on humans. She mentioned that estrogen in water, no matter where it is coming from, can be contributing to human health problems such as breast cancer, early puberty and other reproductive issues. However, Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C., says that there is no significant scientific evidence supporting the idea that estrogen in water causes human health problems.

No matter what the effect of extra estrogen in our environment, this study reveals that birth control pills are not a significant source of the hormone in our drinking water.

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