National Catholic Register: Contracepting the environment – Birth-control poisoning of streams leave U.S. environmentalists mum
innocent aquatic life downstream.”
Despite growing and nationwide knowledge of birth-control pollution in rivers and streams, leading environmentalists remain unfazed – even in Boulder, where it’s been known about for years.
Curt Cunningham, water-quality-issues chairman for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Sierra Club International, worked tirelessly last year on a ballot measure that would force the City of Boulder to remove fluoride from drinking water, because some believe it has negative effects on health and the environment that outweigh its benefits. But Cunningham said he would never consider asking women to curtail use of birth-control pills and patches – despite what effect these synthetics have on rivers, streams and drinking water.
“I suspect people would not take kindly to that,” Cunningham said. “For many people it’s an economic necessity. It’s also a personal freedom issue.”
As nonviolence coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Betty Ball has taken to the streets with signs in protest of genetically modified crops. She lobbies Boulder’s city and county officials to stop spraying mosquitoes in their effort to fight the deadly West Nile virus – a disease that killed seven Boulder residents and caused permanent disabilities in others during the summer of 2004.
“Right now we’re worried about weed-control chemicals and pesticides,” said Ball, when asked whether her organization would address the hormone problem in Boulder Creek. “The water contamination is a problem, but we don’t have the time and resources to address it right now.”
Norris said hormones have been detected in municipal water supplies, but he said the jury’s out on the long-term effects the chemicals might have on humans and human sexuality.
Research by New Jersey health officials and Rutgers University scientists found traces of birth-control hormones and other prescription drugs and preservatives in municipal tap water throughout the state in 2003, and they don’t know the effects long-term exposure may have.
“The question is, ‘Is this something the body deals with at low levels, metabolizes and there’s no problem? Or is this something that accumulates in the body?’ We just don’t know,” said Brian Buckley, the Rutgers chemist who led the four-year drinking water study, reported the North Jersey News. “To be honest, we are just starting to deal with the question.”
Rebecca Goldburg, a New Jersey biologist working with Environmental Defense, told the North Jersey News: “I’m not sure I want even low levels of birth control pills in my daughter’s drinking water.”
Ball said she’s alarmed by the sex-altered fish in Boulder Creek, and worries about the ramifications for humans.
“Unfortunately, it is emerging as a major issue in creeks and waterways all over the earth, and we’re seeing more and more anomalies, not just with fish but with frogs and other aquatic life. I think it’s a precursor to what will happen to humans who drink contaminated water,” Ball said.
Ball said she’s shocked that citizens of Boulder haven’t organized and taken to the streets, as many Colorado environmentalists did upon learning that farmers and agri-businesses were genetically altering crops. She said the major source of contamination that’s mutating Boulder Creek fish – birth control – makes it a political hot potato.
To avoid genetically modified crops, Ball said, one needed only to buy organic, genetically modified organism-free products at health food stores. Asking residents to stop polluting water with hormones, however, “gets into the bedroom.”
“I’m not going there,” Ball said. “This involves people’s personal lives, child bearing issues, sex lives and personal choices. Maybe people are saying, ‘O my God, what do we do about this?’”
“Apathy is the fear of sticking your toe in, for fear it will change your life,” she said. “Sometimes positive change does require a change in lifestyle.”
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Wayne Laugesen, based in Boulder, Colo., is a correspondent for National Catholic Register.
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Copyright © 2007 Circle Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Republished with permission by Catholic Online from the Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2007, National Catholic Register (www.ncregister.com), a Catholic Online Preferred Publishing Partner.
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