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Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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During my first weeks in Washington DC, I read a blog post on fish that have developed both female and male reproductive systems found in the Potomac river (from where, I believe, the city takes its water). As the author writes,

[…] the pollution we’ve poured into the river is probably to blame for creating the first ever bi-gendered fish. […] chemicals that are probably causing male fish to start growing eggs. (DCist)

I guess, it’s not the first ever bi-gendered fish, as I just realize reading a more comprehensive and credible study reported by The Indipendent. Quoting the author,

[…] Males of species from each of the main classes of vertebrate animals (including bony fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have been affected by chemicals in the environment. […]Many have been identified as “endocrine disrupters” – or gender-benders – because they interfere with hormones. […] Female hormones – largely from the contraceptive pills which pass unaltered through sewage treatment – are partly responsible. […] If we are seeing problems in wildlife, we can be concerned that something similar is happening to a proportion of human males [Professor Lou Gillette]. Indeed, new research at the University of Rochester in New York state shows that boys born to mothers with raised levels of phthalates were more likely to have smaller penises and undescended testicles. They also had a shorter distance between their anus and genitalia, a classic sign of feminisation (see also “Phthalates and Baby Boys Potential Disruption of Human Genital Development”). (The Independent)

Beside of being “a large red flag” at humanity, to me this is yet another example on how nature in general and society in particular are exposed in an irresponsible way to modern technology or, in other words, how studies on the dangers of modern technologies are typically timely behind global adoption. Of course, there are a number of reasons for this.

I sometimes wonder whether in 20-30 years electronics with wireless technology (mobile phones, computers, PDAs, eBook readers, …) will be banned from public places (who would have predicted this in the sixties about cigarettes?) and we will talk about passive electromagnetic consumption when the person sitting next to us on the metro is talking on his mobile phone.

(The title of this post refers to a previous post.)