Estrogen is an essential hormone naturally produced in the body. Estrogen mimics are artificial hormones that have a different chemical structure but behave the same as estrogen biologically. Both types of estrogens can be found in many products we use every day. Birth control pills contain synthetic estrogen. Estrogen mimics are found in herbicides like atrazine, in parabens in many personal hygiene products, bisphenol-a and phthalates in polycarbonate plastics, perfluorinated chemicals in nonstick cookware, nonylphenol in detergents, and triclosan in antibacterial soap.
These estrogens enter the water through human and animal excretions and are rinsed down drains or deposited directly into the ground and water. Wastewater treatment facilities do not have the technology to remove estrogens and estrogen mimics from wastewater, so levels of estrogens continue to rise as they cycle through our waterways. Eventually, humans and other animals are exposed to potentially dangerous estrogen concentrations.
Documented effects of overexposure to estrogens in aquatic animals include delayed sexual maturity, decreased size of male reproductive anatomy, and thinner eggs. Specific data on the estrogen concentrations in the LCRB have not been collected; however, similar adverse effects have been documented in nearby waterways. Overexposure to estrogens have been correlated with increased rates of breast, uterine, and prostate cancer; heart disease; and stroke; as well as decreased muscle mass, sperm count, and sex drive in humans.
There are five things that you can immediately do to avoid increasing the levels of estrogen and estrogen mimics in the LCRB:
- Do not use herbicides on your lawns or gardens.
- Use personal hygiene products that are labeled "paraben-free".
- Use aluminum or stainless steel water bottles instead of polycarbonate plastic bottles.
- Do not use nonstick cookware or antibacterial soaps.
- Make your own laundry detergent! The ingredients are common household products and much cheaper than laundry detergent.