The latest article comment reading assignment in People and the Environment was the feature from the January-February 2002 issue of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, “Mixed Messages” by Mary Hoff.
The article details the increasing discovery of endocrine disruptorsin the environment and their relation to anomalies of nature. In particular, this article revealed the presence of vitellogenin, a protein female fish produce as part of egg-making, in Mississippi River malecarp and walleye. The fish tested were pulled from waters downstream of the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant effluent in St. Paul.
“Nobody blinked at the carp data, but when we found vitellogenin in male walleye, it was on the front page of the Star Tribune,” explains Leroy Folmar, the research physiologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who conducted the study highlighted by Hoff’s article.
Well, of course, a carp is – well – a carp, an overgrown minnow, a rough fish, a Eurasian invader introduced to North American waters by humans long ago. But the walleye is the Minnesota state fish, and, for its beauty and table fare, the prize catch and most sought after game fish in the land of 10,000 lakes.
The extent of the affects, the damages to the global ecosystem, of endocrine disruptors are largely unknown, but increased studies are producing more prevalent evidence. The process of recovery is slow because of the daunting task of identifying the vast array of individual chemical culprits and the equally vast array of abnormalities they produce. Then there is the “harmless” chemicals that bond with other seemingly harmless chemicals to form yet another endocrine disruptor.
A web search turned up a 2005 Institute for Environment and Health compilation of published lists of Chemicals Purported to be Endocrine Disruptors – it’s 91 pages long!
What are we putting into our environment? Why are we only concerned to a sense of urgency when it threatens human life or a desirable part of human life, if at all? Our environment is trying to tell us something – we’re poisoning our Earth.