(NaturalNews) Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are everywhere these days. EDCs from industrial plastics, pharmaceutical drugs, household and industrial cleaners, and other sources regularly contaminate water supplies, rivers, lakes, and other natural ecosystems. The result? Widespread compromise of normal sexual function among vertebrate animals and humans, with actual observed sex changes now taking place in animals.
Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Brunel recently completed a four-year study on how EDCs affect ecosystems, and their findings are quite disturbing. EDCs often bear the nickname "gender benders" because they compromise the hormonal balance of living creatures, causing them to undergo sexual changes.
The authors say the study is the first of its kind to identify the long-term impact of EDCs on wild fish. Using a genetic identification technique that analyzes DNA microsatellites, scientists observed that intersex fish -- meaning those whose sexuality was compromised by EDCs and who harbor both male sperm and female eggs -- have a 76 percent reduced reproductive capacity due to the chemical interactions.
"This is the first time we've seen firm evidence that the intersex fish, males that have been feminized by EDCs, have a reduced ability to breed," explained Professor Charles Tyler, a joint researcher from the University of Exeter's Biosciences department. "Clearly this raises concerns about the implications on the future for wild fish populations...but there's also much wider issues raised by these findings. Some of the effects seen in fish could occur in other animals, too, as hormone systems are quite similar across vertebrates."