Subject: Re: NANFA-L-- Chicken Estrogen? or? ... Mummy's my Father
From: Tom Watson (onefish2fish at comcast.net)
Date: Fri Oct 15 2004 - 12:20:25 CDT
Here's the whole article:
Male Bass in Potomac Producing Eggs
Pollution Suspected Cause of Anomaly in River's South Branch
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2004; Page A01
MOOREFIELD, W.Va. -- The South Branch of the Potomac River is as clear as
bottled water here, where it rolls over a bed of smooth stones about 230
miles upstream from Washington. But there is a mystery beneath this glassy
Many of the river's male bass are producing eggs.
Scientists believe this inversion of nature is being caused by pollution in
the water. But they say the exact culprit is still unknown: It might be
chicken estrogen left over in poultry manure, or perhaps human hormones
dumped in the river with processed sewage. Chances are, it is not something
that federal and state inspectors regularly test for in local waters.
The discovery has made the South Branch the latest example of an emerging
national problem: Hormones, drugs and other man-made pollutants appear to be
interfering with the chemical signals that make fish grow and reproduce.
While researchers look for answers in West Virginia, other scientists are
testing Rock Creek, and another group is seeking financial support to test
the rest of the Potomac to see whether they can find the same troubling
"Whatever's doing this to the fish may be the canary in the mineshaft," said
Margaret Janes, a West Virginia activist with the Appalachian Center for the
Economy and the Environment.
Scientists say it's still too early to tell what these findings will mean
for the bass population in the South Branch; they aren't sure whether the
affected males are still able to reproduce. And no one is aware of any
effects on human health in the Potomac watershed.
But scientists believe that fish might be the first to absorb any dangerous
chemicals that might later affect humans.
"They're likely to be hit first," said Mike Focazio, a researcher with the
U.S. Geological Survey. "We look there, and it seems to be happening."
The situation in West Virginia was discovered by accident, when scientists
from the state and the geological survey were called in to investigate
reports that fish in the South Branch were developing lesions and dying en
They dissected dozens of bass caught last summer, mainly smallmouth bass.
They found no obvious cause for the lesions or deaths, but did discover that
42 percent of the male bass had developed eggs inside their sex organs.
The study surprised scientists. Though the South Branch has been cited for
problems with bacteria from poultry manure, state officials said it did well
on most aspects of water-quality testing.
"We always have, and still do, look at this as one of our highest-quality
fisheries," said Patrick Campbell of the state Department of Environmental
Protection. "It's counter-intuitive to think we would have this type of
problem out there."
But the problem is there: A follow-up survey in the spring found even higher
rates of "intersex" bass -- as the affected males are called. A study of 66
male smallmouths from the South Branch found that about 79 percent showed
such symptoms, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.
The scientists are now analyzing water samples from the South Branch and the
Cacapon River -- a nearby Potomac tributary where intersex bass were also
found. The chemicals they're looking for now are not the well-known
pollutants that the state already tests for, such as nitrogen and phosphorus
from manure and metals from mine runoff.
Instead, the culprit is probably in a class called "emerging contaminants,"
which includes everything from caffeine and prescription drugs to hormones
excreted by livestock or humans.
Some of these pollutants have been linked to developmental problems in
wildlife. Scientists believe that fish, especially, absorb hormones from
other animals, as well as other chemicals that their bodies mistake for
One recent study near sewage plants in Colorado found male fish whose bodies
were trying to produce eggs and some females whose reproductive systems were
out of sync. Other studies have found similar effects from the hormones in
cow manure and from chemicals from a wood-pulp plant.
"It is certainly an alarming situation that we're seeing more and more gross
effects," said David O. Norris, a professor who worked on the Colorado
These emerging contaminants were hard to detect without the finely tuned
equipment developed recently. The first nationwide survey, conducted in 1999
and 2000, found hormones in about 37 percent of the streams surveyed and
caffeine in more than half.
The only testing in the Potomac, done in Washington in 2002, found low
levels of caffeine, plus the insecticide DEET and chemicals produced when a
body breaks down nicotine. There were also a few suspected endocrine
disruptors, including chemicals found in hand soap and household cleaners.
As of now, little is done to test for these chemicals -- either in river
water or in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not
set standards, saying more research is needed to determine which
contaminants are harmful and what levels are unsafe.
West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and the District do not test river water
regularly for drugs or hormones. The same goes for drinking water after it
is processed by the Washington Aqueduct, supplying the District, Arlington
County and Falls Church, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
Still, the West Virginia study has spurred scientists to look for more
information. Researchers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are seeking
money for a much larger study across the Potomac watershed. They want to
look for intersex bass and potentially disruptive chemicals in sites
including the Blue Plains sewage plant in Southwest Washington.
Another federal study is underway in Rock Creek, looking for intersex
symptoms and other health problems in a species of fish called white
Scientists across the region stressed that their work is just beginning. "We
really don't know what's going on," said Vicki S. Blazer, a researcher for
the geological survey in West Virginia.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bruce Stallsmith" <fundulus at hotmail.com>
To: <nanfa-l at nanfa.org>
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2004 9:19 PM
Subject: RE: NANFA-L-- Chicken Estrogen? or? ... Mummy's my Father
> The Post requires registration... but I love shooting the poop about
> gonadal steroids. What do they claim?
> --Bruce Stallsmith
> the Tennessee
> Huntsville, AL, US of A
>>From: "Tom Watson" <onefish2fish at comcast.net>
>>Reply-To: nanfa-l at nanfa.org
>>To: <nanfa-l at nanfa.org>
>>Subject: NANFA-L-- Chicken Estrogen? or? ... Mummy's my Father
>>Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2004 20:18:44 -0700
>>From the Washington Post:
>>There must be a Nanfa person close to this that could shed some light?
>>West Hyblos Creek Drainage
> Check out Election 2004 for up-to-date election news, plus voter tools and
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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 11:27:46 CST