Ew: Your Birth Control Is Causing Infertility and Gender-Switching in Fish


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Okay, so this is pleasant: You take The Pill. You use the toilet. You flush. The sewage system carries your waste to who-knows-where, but it seeps into the streams, rivers, and lakes around your town, where the fish then ingest it and become sterile/develop both male and female reproductive parts. Welcome to We're All Going to Die When the Mutant Guppies Rise Up!

According to a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (opens in new tab), it's the synthetic hormone 17a-ethinylestradiol that's causing infertility and intersexuality in aquatic creatures, translating to as much as a 30 percent drop in the number of baby fish being born.

"If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in future generations," Ramji Bhandari, a visiting scientist at USGS,told the Washington Post (opens in new tab). "These adverse outcomes, if shown in natural populations, could have negative impacts on fish inhabiting contaminated aquatic environments."

Gulp. But actually don't, because then you'd be drinking in your neighbor's Prozac or cocaine or ecstasy (opens in new tab), which all pollute our water in trace amounts. It's not like we can ban oral contraceptives, so how are we going to save the fish? HOW ARE WE GOING TO SAVE OURSELVES? Come on, science—THINK.

You should also check out:

How To Save Your Skin From Pollution (opens in new tab)

How Your Body Changes When You Switch Birth Control (opens in new tab)

More and More Women Are Ditching the Pill for an IUD (opens in new tab)

Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.