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How flushing the toilet can cause genetic defects in wildlife

By Hari Krishnan
|

Washington, Dec 14 (ANI): Scientists at the University of Idaho have discovered that an active chemical in birth control pills, that is released into the environment through human urine, can cause genetic defects in rainbow trouts.

James Nagler, professor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho, recently discovered that 17a-ethynylestradiol, which is an active chemical in birth control pills, causes cells in rainbow trout to have an abnormal number of chromosomes.

This condition, known as aneuploidy, is often found in cancer cells, causes Down's syndrome in humans, and may be why many embryos fathered by exposed specimens die within three weeks.

"The bottom line is that aneuploidy is abnormal and highly undesirable," said Nagler. "I believe this compound is causing elevated levels of sperm aneuploidy, which in turn is greatly reducing the embryonic survival rate in the fish it affects," he added.agler exposed male rainbow trout to the chemical and tested their sperm for abnormal chromosome levels.

He then fertilized eggs from unexposed females with the affected semen and compared the resulting offspring's survival rate with a control group that was not exposed to the synthetic estrogen.

The results showed that while offspring sired by healthy male and female fish enjoyed a three-week survival rate of more than 95 percent, only 40 to 60 percent of the young trout from the affected semen survived.

Additionally, the abnormal chromosomal levels were passed on to some of the offspring.

The chemical 17a-ethynylestradiol is a synthetic estrogen commonly used in human birth control pills and is released into the environment through urination.

The compound is difficult to remove in waste treatment plants, and very few plants are capable of removing the chemical before releasing the water back into the environment.

"The concentrations we tested are not found everywhere," said Nagler. "But there are definitely many places in the world containing levels close to - if not exceeding - the concentration that we tested," he added.

The results were coauthored with Kim Brown and Joe Cloud from the University of Idaho, and Irvin Schultz of Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. (ANI)

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