Male Fish Turning Female, Detergent to Blame?

It’s not only you that doesn’t enjoy washing-up - fish aren’t big fans either. Certain chemicals used in detergents are believed to cause male fish to develop female characteristics. This has prompted the environmental group, the Sierra Club, to ask the federal Government to ban these chemicals, called nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). They have also asked the EPA to ban their use on areas where water treatment plants aren’t equipped to remove them.

"We think it's time for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action and restrict this chemical," said Ed Hopkins of the Sierra Club. The EPA is developing a program, called the Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative, which would recognise those who remove NPEs from their products, but would not enforce removal.

Cases of intersex fish have been reported for the last decade, and NPEs are believed to be one cause, as is water run-off from farms. Procter & Gamble and Unilever have already removed the substance from it’s products, and substituted other chemicals.

The Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council is a trade group for producers of NPEs, which obviously support the use of the chemical. "NP, NPE and their biodegradation intermediates are among the most extensively studied compounds in commerce today. Few compounds have the same degree of test data and have received the same degree of scrutiny," said Robert Fensterheim, executive director.

However, Hopkins and the Sierra Club believe that the EPA didn’t fully consider the range of effects that NPEs might have on fish when drawing up the tests. For more information on which detergents are safe to use, have a look at our previous coverage. :: ENN

See also :: How To Green Your Dishwasher :: Washington State Bans Detergents

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