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Screening For 'Gender Bender' Hormones Needed

25 March 2002

Screening For 'Gender Bender' Hormones In Water Needed Now

Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today the Waikato Pipeline must be put on hold until the Ministry of Health can give quality advice to Watercare Services about 'gender bender' hormones in drinking water.

"The Health Ministry should begin immediate screening for 'gender bending' hormones in drinking water taken from rivers receiving sewage. Ecological monitoring is also needed to see if fish and shellfish have been affected, indicating the presence of oestrogen. Even one part per billion of these hormones can feminise fish.

"Only then can Watercare Services get the guidance they are seeking about oestrogen contamination in river water," she said.

A UK study commissioned by the British Government found that drinking water from rivers was being contaminated with highly concentrated female hormones from the urine of women using contraceptive pills. These hormones were changing the sex of around half of all male fish and possibly affecting male fertility.

Ms Fitzsimons said all sorts of studies were being quoted to show that the British study was not relevant, but they were not reassuring.

"Environment Waikato say Hamilton's drinking water is clean. Of course Hamilton's drinking water is free of these hormones because they take their water well upstream from the sewage outfall. Aucklanders will not be so lucky," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"The most relevant piece of information so far is that an Auckland University masters thesis found low levels of the hormone being discharged into the Waikato River at the sewage treatment plant.

"I am concerned that water from the Waikato River, downstream from sewage discharges, where oestrogen contamination has been documented, is going to be pumped into Auckland's permanent water supply from May.

"It may be that the Waikato water should only be used for industrial applications as close to the treatment plant as possible to minimise double reticulation. That way high quality water from protected catchments could meet all needs for high quality potable water.

"This is yet another reason to dispose of sewage onto land where possible," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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