Nice to see The Independent, in an otherwise over-hyped story, acknowledge the main source of the problem it is so breathless about:
Half the male fish in British lowland rivers have been found to be developing eggs in their testes; in some stretches all male roaches have been found to be changing sex in this way. Female hormones – largely from the contraceptive pills which pass unaltered through sewage treatment – are partly responsible, while more than three-quarters of sewage works have been found also to be discharging demasculinising man-made chemicals. Feminising effects have now been discovered in a host of freshwater fish species as far away as Japan and Benin, in Africa, and in sea fish in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, Osaka Bay in Japan and Puget Sound on the US west coast.
Make no mistake, the effects of contraceptives on fish is a genuine environmental catastrophe, which is why I devote an entire chapter to it in The Really Inconvenient Truths (which would make a great Christmas present, by the way). However, when the story gets away from the effects on wildlife and towards supposed effects of “endocrine disruptors” on humanity, the research strikes me as a bit, well, fishy. Take this, for example:
A study at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University showed that boys whose mothers had been exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea sets rather than with traditionally male toys.
I haven’t read the study, but I imagine Harvey Mansfield might have something to say about it.