For the past 30 days, men across our big blue planet have been growing mustaches in support of men’s health. The combination of “mustache” and “November” has yielded a powerful movement known as Movember. The Movember Foundation has been established to spearhead this (what some might call, creepy) movement. According to Movember’s website,
Movember challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache… The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for cancers that affect men. Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, the men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days.
Thirty days later and our Waterkeeper logo has managed to grow quite the ‘stache! Don’t worry though, being December 1st, it’s time to chop it off!
However, before doing so, since the idea of Movember is designed to shed light on men’s health issues, we at Charleston Waterkeeper wanted to take this opportunity to discuss one specific pollutant that impacts the health and lives of many (both human and aquatic) – an issue that is directly related to our world’s water.
Endocrine disruptors are substances that “interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis (normal cell metabolism), reproduction, development, and/or behavior.” Basically, these nasty compounds have the ability to mess with the male/female delineation in many species.
So, what are some examples of endocrine disruptors? Well, to name a few, they include chemicals and pollutants like the following: DDT, PCBs, flame retardants, BPA (a popular chemical found in plastic bottles), and many more. For a complete list, click here.
Most recently, BPA has received much attention because of studies that “have found that laboratory animals exposed to low levels of it have elevated rates diabetes, mammary and prostate cancers, decreased sperm count, reproductive problems, early puberty, obesity, and neurological problems.”
How do we consume such compounds? Well, there are a number of ways… First, if the chemicals are present in our immediate environment (i.e. water bottles from which we drink, pots/pans from which we eat, etc.), we can easily digest them. However, there are certainly less direct ways (but equally as dangerous) by which we gain exposure.
Particularly in regards to our waterways, many known endocrine disruptors wash down our drains every day – chemicals and drugs filtered through our bodies, pills flushed through toilets, and compounds that eventually make their way into our waterways. The majority of wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) do not filter or treat pharmaceuticals, toxic chemicals, and other known endocrine disruptors. As a result, these materials are flushed directly into our nation’s waterways and become a part of the aquatic ecosystems.
The impact of these chemicals in our waterways is huge. For example, populations of male bass have been found carrying eggs (a hormonal change caused by endocrine disruptors), while the rate of reproduction in other species has decreased significantly. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has greater examples of the impacts of endocrine disruptors on their “Environmental Contaminants Program” website.
So in the spirit of Movember, let’s take a minute to think about how we can impact men’s health (both in man and in fish) for the better. Here are a few simple steps we can all take to reduce the risk of endocrine disruptors:
- When drinking tap water, use an approved reusable bottle (i.e. steel, etc.)
- When drinking bottled water, use the bottle sparingly (do not freeze, leave in sun, etc.), and make sure to recycle
- Do not flush pills down the drain; instead properly dispose of them (check out SC DHEC’s “Proper Disiposal of Unwanted Medicine” fact sheet for detailed instructions)
- Next Movember, grow a mustache (if you can) and/or support the organizations and researchers working to identify solutions to men’s health issues