Saturday, March 17, 2012

Environmentalist States China's Drinking Water Contaminated with Contraceptives

Chinese fisherman displays a bountiful catch while consumers worry about possible contamination. Photo courtesy: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Fears about water quality are rocketing throughout Chinese cyberspace after a Beijing environmentalist disclosed that tap water in China is contaminated with contraceptive compounds.

Though officialdom rushed to downplay the risks, citizens have once again broached their ever-present worries about food safety.

Liangjie Dong, a former researcher in molecular biosciences and bioengineering at the University of Hawaii, blogged on May 16 that China has the highest consumption of contraceptive pills; they are not only taken by people, but are also used in fisheries and aquaculture.

Dong cited an article, titled “Assessment of Source Water Contamination by Estrogenic Disrupting Compounds in China,” which was published by the Journal of Environmental Science in February 2012. The article said that after screening estrogenic activities in 23 source water samples from six main river systems in China, the analysis showed that all samples showed significant estrogenic activity, with the highest level in the Yangtze River delta.

Dong also posted a table from the article which compared aquatic environments in China with those of Germany, Greece, Portugal, the United States, Australia and South Korea. The data shows that China’s six major water systems all contain higher level of estrogenic compounds than other countries.

According to the article, the detection of estrogenic-disrupting compounds (EDCs) in Chinese water supplies has led to rising concerns about the health risks associated with these compounds.

“Estrogenic activity has been detected in effluents of drinking water treatment plants in China, resulting in increased risks to human health. When these compounds enter the environment, they can cause male reproductive dysfunction in wildlife,” the article said.

According to an article published in Chemosphere on Sept. 18, 2006, “EDCs are contaminants that may be hormonally active at low concentrations and are emerging as a major concern for water quality… when organisms are exposed to them, these contaminants function as estrogens.” The article also said these compounds can negatively affect humans and wildlife.

Dong’s message has gone viral on the Internet. Some netizens fear that consuming tap water will cause infertility.

Soon afterwards, a number of Chinese media quickly published articles to refute Dong’s findings.

Deputy Director of Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Zhongda Hospital at Southeast University, Peng Danhong, told Modern Express that the level of EDCs in tap water is so low that it is negligible, and there is no contraceptive effect at all.

A supervisor in the Shanghai Water Resources Bureau told the Shanghai Evening Post that there is no conclusion on whether EDCs are harmful.

However, an environmental expert from Nanjing University told Modern Express that it is difficult to handle new pollutants such as EDCs with current water treatment methods in China.

Dong also cited the Journal of Environmental Science’s article as saying that traditional water treatment processes, such as chlorination, coagulation, and sedimentation, do not adequately remove EDCs.

Many people are dissatisfied with the experts’ claims. An Internet user from Zhuhai city in Guangdong province said, “An expert says that the risk is negligible. I know eating this substance will not kill a person immediately, but its impact is long-term and destructive.”

Blogger “Fan Xiaoming” satirically describes how Chinese are consuming unsafe food on a daily basis: “I get up in the morning, buy a dough stick deep-fried with gutter oil and drink a cup of milk with melamine; at noon, I eat lean meat powder pork fried with pesticide-tainted chives. After work, I’ll then buy a fish that was fed contraceptive chemicals. At night, I’ll swig down a bottle of coke containing chlorine. But yet, since I swallow a few toxic capsules whenever I feel sick and find myself still miraculously live, I wonder when I became Superman!”

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