Vatican newspaper: The pill causes male infertility and environmental damage

This is rich.

The contraceptive pill is polluting the environment and is in part responsible for male infertility, a report in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said Saturday.
The pill “has for some years had devastating effects on the environment by releasing tonnes of hormones into nature” through female urine, said Pedro Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, in the report.

Your pee! It’s killing the trees! Not to mention sperm. As if the fear of female sexuality wasn’t obvious enough – best to mention that contraception is a total boner killer. Lovely.

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  1. Kiboko
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    *snap* I suppose I need to stop urinating on everything – food, trees, random men’s mochas…I didn’t realize the detrimental environmental potency of my tainted defunct metabolized hormone urine!!!
    Seriously. I want the data that supports this, the methods utilized to collect said data, AND I want it peer-reviewed and published in a reputable scientific journal.

  2. norbizness
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The pill also dug up my garden and ate all the radishes last spring.

  3. FashionablyEvil
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Well, it’s not quite as ridiculous as it sounds–there are a number of compounds (often called environmental estrogens or endocrine disrupters), including synthetic estrogen from the pill, that can adversely affect male fertility (although usually in animals).

  4. laurajd
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    OH MY GOD! (no pun intended)…is that why the grass in my backyard is dead and i have not seen a chipmunk for about a half a year? fucking pill!

  5. Terabithia
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    This is not necessarily wrong. I don’t know if they presented it quite correctly, but there have been scientific studies showing that estrogenic compounds are getting into the environment, both from the pill and from lots of other chemical products (including some shampoos for example) and they do have an effect on the sexuality of animals. Lots of scientists think they might have an effect on human sexuality also, but that’s more complicated and thus harder to show conclusively.
    I’ve heard some people theorize that this might be why we have more gay people now than we used to– although the problem with that is you really can never prove if we do have more gay people than we used to. Are there more people out of the closet now because its more socially acceptable, or is it more socially acceptable becuase there are many more gay people than there used to be before the industrial revolution? I don’t think anyone will ever be able to prove that one without a time machine. We do know there have always been gay men and women, but we’ll never be able to accurately put a percentage on how many there were in the past.

  6. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    But the vast majority of environmental estrogen comes from agricultural waste, not to mention the estrogen-like substances in our meat and dairy products due to the excessive use of hormones in factory farming. Interesting that they don’t mention this at all.

  7. SecondBeach
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    While I see how these findings could be misused to pit women’s lib liberals against enviro liberals, there’s (unfortunately) something to it.
    Here’s your peer-review.
    - Palace V.P., Wautier, K., Evans, R.E., Baron, C.L., Ranson, C., Klaverkamp, J.F., Kidd, K. 2001. Effects of 17~-estradiol exposure on metallothionein and fat soluble antioxidant vitamins in juvenile lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush). Bull. Environ Contam Toxicol. 66:591-596
    Conclusion: Male fish produced high levels of egg protein precursors, had delays in development of reproductive tissues, and in one species of minnow produced eggs. Female fish had delays in reproductive development and changes in the amount and timing of egg protein production. Kidneys and livers were also affected in fish.After about 6 months, there were no apparent changes in size of fish populations, fish growth rates, male to female ratios, or survival of offspring. There were no apparent affects on tadpole growth, development and sex ratios but a low number of males had eggs. Affects on sex ratio and egg production were observed in zooplankton populations. No effects were found on the numbers of bacteria, algae and leeches. Monitoring of the lake ecosystem will continue for three years following estrogen exposure to determine the long-term impacts on populations of fish and aquatic organisms.
    - Kidd AK, Blanchfield PJ, Mills KH et al. Collapse of a Fish Population after Exposure to a Synthetic Estrogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, link] 21 May 2007. Links
    Conclusion: We conducted a 7-year, whole-lake experiment at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario, Canada, and showed that chronic exposure of fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) to low concentrations (5–6 ng·L?1) of the potent 17?-ethynylestradiol led to feminization of males through the production of vitellogenin mRNA and protein, impacts on gonadal development as evidenced by intersex in males and altered oogenesis in females, and, ultimately, a near extinction of this species from the lake. Our observations demonstrate that the concentrations of estrogens and their mimics observed in freshwaters can impact the sustainability of wild fish populations.
    One of the researchers, Karen Kidd, said that estrogens can be removed in wastewater treatment and that these findings should not effect womens’ use of birth control, but when many municipalities cannot even sufficiently remove fecal matter from water before it enters estuaries, lakes and rivers, I’m doubtful such precautions could or would be widely undertaken.
    Speaking as an ecology student who knows her way around the peer reviewed research on endocrine disrupters, this issue has actually been one of actually one of serious concern in the field and is enough to make me ditch my hormonal birth control in favor of simply being extra careful with condoms.

  8. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I’m not aware of any research that’s ever linked hormones to sexual preference. I would be interested to see it if it’s out there.
    I think what’s so infuriating about this report is that it completely ignores the source of most of the environmental estrogen (“conventional” agriculture) and blames it all on the smallest source. The amount of synthetic hormones pumped into farm animals every year far outweighs the amount of estrogen released into the environment via women on the pill, but you don’t hear the vatican condemning conventional agriculture.

  9. Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Um, since when do these people believe in science?
    When it can be used to blame women for shit, I guess.

  10. Kristen
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    The question then is why is the main issue hormonal birth control rather than plastics, detergents, pesticides that use estrogen mimics? These hormones and similar chemical substances are not just found in hormonal birth control; however, hormonal birth control is considered to be the primary culprit.
    Why? Because once upon a time, there was once a snake and an apple/fig…

  11. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Exactly. And the research I read on this topic (a couple of years ago, admittedly) said that this effect was first found in rivers and lakes that received a lot of agricultural runoff – especially in places like Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. In Minnesota where my dairy-farming cousins live there are almost no fish in the rivers anymore, and the various species of frogs and salamanders show all kinds of mutations. Everyone who lives there just accepts that fact that it’s caused by agricultural runoff. I think the assumption is that the hormones used in dairy farming get into the water in large quantities, but I also wonder about the Roundup (everybody there grows Roundup-ready corn and soybeans for feed) and other similar chemicals.

  12. Kiboko
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the links to the articles! Sorry I didn’t get around to checking the databases myself first. I’m not familiar with endocrine/ecology research (my “area” is biochemistry – lipids, DNA methylation and now oxalate metabolism), so it probably would have taken me awhile to get there :)
    Yes, it is sad they didn’t bother to actually cite anything that led to their conclusions in the article, but then again – I suppose they figure most people won’t care?

  13. ephraim
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Yes! Compare the amount of hormonal birth control to the amount of plastic and pesticides in the world, and they’re blaming the birth control? It’s clear that more rich people stand to get richer from plastic and pesticide than from women’s sexual liberation.

  14. SecondBeach
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I guess I should have clarified: My point was simply that the science surrounding the problems of estradiol in aquatic ecosystems is sound.
    However, you guys are totally right in that there are much bigger fish to fry (pardon the pun) in terms of watershed pollution. Its a shame the Vatican doesn’t feel similarly concerned about the agricultural chemicals that cause the onset of breast development while girls are as young as 6 or 7. (

  15. Terabithia
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t have time to track it down now, maybe someone else can. But I think there have been studies linking hormone exposure (mainly prenatal?) to sexual orientation in animals.
    There have definitely been studies linking hormones to other sexual effects, see SecondBeach’s comment.
    Its a good point that the vast majority of hormonal pollution does not come from the pill, so I think that’s a valid criticism of the original article.

  16. SecondBeach
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Oh, and totally forgot:
    Its a brilliant and necessary breakdown of how to see through the media’s co-opting of often sound science for their own purposes, whether they be simply garnering a larger readership or something more…sinister. Its pretty awesome, check it out.

  17. FrumiousB
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but those results were on fish. They don’t extrapolate to mammals. Do you have any mammalian results? If you do, please include the abstract in addition to the conclusions.

  18. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I’ve read articles about environmental estrogen causing mutations in frogs and fish, and of the possible link to infertility in males. But I’ve never heard anything about sexual preference, but would be interested to see what the claims are.

  19. FrumiousB
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The beauty of Round-up is that it binds to soil and decomposes pretty quickly. The binding means not much of it will dissolve in water and wash into lakes and streams, and the quick decomposition means it won’t be hanging around for years, allowing what little might wash out to do so.

  20. dykelawyer
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always maintained that contraception is a plot to sap American males’ precious bodily fluids.

  21. SecondBeach
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    The “Conclusions” were from the abstract – by conclusions, i simply meant what ‘conclusions’ the scientists had drawn from their results.
    And I said the science about aquatic ecosystems are sound – I can’t find much of merit about it affecting men. It affecting fish in the water makes sense, but unless men are drinking sewage effluent, I’m missing something.

  22. v.georgiades
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    wait so I’m gay because too many of my mother’s generation were peeing estrogen into the earth?
    and here I was believing it was because I was sick. or genetically malformed. or confused. or not trying hard enough. or the devil’s accomplice. or too stubborn and rebellious.
    phew, what a relief. I feel a weight lifted off my back. can’t blame me anymore you homophobes, blame your pill-popping mothers!

  23. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    And yet most of the farmhouses in my extended family’s part of Minnesota can no longer use the wells that used to supply their homes with water, due to the Roundup in the water. I know that Monsanto makes a lot of great claims about their products, but given their track record I’m very hesitant to believe everything they say.
    For instance, they’re also the company responsible for bovine growth hormone (and have sued organic dairies to prevent them from saying they don’t use rBGH on their packaging), and have always claimed that it has no effect on humans or other mammals, but that has been proven wrong. Now many researchers believe that hormone exposure like this contributes to breast cancer, cervical cancer, etc. and yet most of the focus is on producing pharmaceuticals to treat these cancers rather than researching environmental causes in order to prevent them to begin with. Why? Because both the agricultural chemical companies and the pharmaceutical comapnies are very powerful and have loyal friend in Congress, and it’s not in their interest to prevent the cancers to begin with or change agricultural practices in any way. Super depressing.

  24. Vail
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how all the men peeing Viagra is effecting the environment….

  25. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Just one more reason why Bitch Magazine kicks ass and must be supported!

  26. Katjusha
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I suppose we need to stop pregnant women peeing into our sewage systems too.

  27. aideenjohnston
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Having been brought up Catholic, I can testify that the RC Church is not one of those churches that denies evolution or anything like that (maybe a long time ago, but certainly not nowadays). So your assertion that they don’t believe in science except when it suits them is technically incorrect, unless you’re one of those who believes science and God can never mix…
    I do, on the other hand, feel that any Christian who denies the validity of homosexuality is rejecting science of the psychological variety, and have no patience for that.

  28. Terabithia
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, I really don’t have time to research it too much– but I googled “sexual orientation hormones lab animals” and got a bunch of results. Finding the actual scientific papers referred to is a bit too time consuming for me right now though. Take a look and if you find something interesting let us know…
    Oh wait, this one looks interesting:
    “But rats, hamsters, ferrets and other lab animals flip-flop their sexual behavior when scientists manipulate the hormones they’re exposed to before birth.”

  29. Steven
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    That is why we try to deny women our precious bodily fluids…

  30. bifemmefatale
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Birth control pills, the Nuva ring, etc. aren’t even good for many of the women who take them. Heart attacks, strokes, blood clots…and I personally had to stop taking the pill because it caused huge mood swings and cysts in my breasts. We need much better birth control than what we’ve got.

  31. spike the cat
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    True, but in all fairness, being pregnancy also puts women at a higher risk for strokes and other potentially deadly clots, not to mention a whole host of other long term, rarely talked about sequelae.
    Nothing is perfect, unfortunately…

  32. Steven
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    A good book on the role of hormone imitators and human fertility is Our Stolen Future by Theo Colbern.
    And it is not just the stuff in urine, it is the chemical affluent that medical companies dump into the water.
    And the key phrase from what Jessica posted is “in part.” Is it “in part” responsible? I don’t know, becuase I don’t know if the metabolized hormones retain any ability to mimic estrogen or testosterone.
    And the arguement about hormone mimickers being everywhere… if you think that hormone mimickers are a problem (and the research is pretty solid that hormone mimickers mess with the reproductive cycles of both sexes) then the arguement that it is only one more sources of hormone mimickers isn’t going to hurt rings kinda false.
    That would be like telling an environmentalist they are stupid for not driving a car, becuase one more car on the road is not going to hurt.
    Remember An Inconvenient Truth? When Al Gore showed graphically that the solution to CO2 emissions was not many big solutions but many small solutions? Thats how I process the info… this is one more place were improvement could be made in stopping hormone mimickers from affecting my balls. And if you are concerned about your reproductive organs, or your partners, you could care too.

  33. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    But I think the problem is that the Vatican is so eager to blame this all on women who use hormonal contraception without also listing the other sources that seem to vastly outweigh the impact of pills taken by women. Did the Vatican criticize the pharmaceutical companies or conventional agriculture as well, and point out the proportionality of their impact? And since when is the Vatican so concerned about the environment? Birth rates that are out of control are very, very bad for the environment.

  34. teacherwoman
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    To all the people on the environmental side… Know what else is bad for the environment?

  35. Lauren
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh, okay then. Let’s all stop taking our birth control and have a bunch of unplanned kids. Overpopulation is GREAT for the environment.

  36. Lauren
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Haha, looks like we posted simultaneously with the same thought.

  37. Lilly
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    There’s always the IUD. No hormones in that. It’s cheap, effective, and safe.

  38. Steven
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Alot of religious groups beleive that humans are suppose to be stewards of the earth. Especially if we are supose to have a kingdom on earth that last for 1,000 years then an eternal kingdom you don’t want the earth fucked up.
    And yeah, Catholics think that fucking for fun is a sin. Criticizing that is fair game.
    But they may be right on the science. And ignoring the science because of the messengers could be the wrong approach.
    P.S. I tried to track down the source artice, but could not find the most current issue.
    Last weeks is at:

  39. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, the church I grew up in thought that too (stewards of the earth…), but that doesn’t really cohere with the “accept as many children as God sees fit to bless you with” theme that is also common to many Christian churches. If every family has 18 children (or even 8) we won’t be able to be any kind of stewards of the earth.
    And the wording in the excerpts I’ve seen implies that the contraceptive BC pill (alone) is responsible for polluting the environment with estrogen, and this pollution is partially responsible for male infertility.

  40. Lilly
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Ah, my bad. It turns out the IUD is only a good idea if you are going to be monogamous.
    My point remains though. There are many different birth control options, and not all of them use estrogen supplements. Using non-estrogen birth control might become the next “green” thing to do.

  41. Lauren
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, but it’s slightly less effective than the pill, and my gynecologist doesn’t recommend using one at my age (I’m only 21) because, though things usually don’t go wrong, if they do go wrong, I’d lose my childbearing ability.

  42. teacherwoman
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s just so interesting how the Catholic church is suddenly concerned about the environment. As if nothing they do contributes to global warming. It’s like they found something they usually wouldn’t take a stand on, and used it to promote a specific agenda.

  43. kissmypineapple
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE my IUD, don’t get me wrong, but it is most certainly not for everyone. The insertion was painful (not excruciatingly so, but still), was really, not that cheap (if I didn’t have insurance, there’s no way I could have afforded it), and if you haven’t had children, there’s an exceptionally good chance that your body will basically spit it right back out. Plus, some people are allergic to copper.

  44. Eggo000
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    This is only a sanitation issue though.

  45. cellardoors
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    The RCC actually condoned the teaching of evolution in Catholic schools very soon after the theory became widespread (as long as it was not the ONLY theory being taught, but they thought the possibility was acceptable). Although the RCC seems to me to have become more and more theologically conservative over the past century (I may be wrong about this), anti-evolution sentiment is mostly a Protestant thing.

  46. SarahMC
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Catholics care about the environment when “caring” about the environment enables them to engage in some irrational woman-blaming and slut-shaming.

  47. Emeraldcityserendipity
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Anything that makes men less fertile probably isn’t that bad. What is ultimately polluting the environment is, of course, humans; so whatever pollution birth control contributes is offset by its desired outcome of combating overpopulation.

  48. Emeraldcityserendipity
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Anything that makes men less fertile probably isn’t that bad. What is ultimately polluting the environment is, of course, humans; so whatever pollution birth control contributes is offset by its desired outcome of combating overpopulation.

  49. leah
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Well and the issue is, these fish are recieving the dose of estrogens while they’re in eggs; mammalian fetuses are much more protected, what between the vagina, cervix and placenta separating them from the outside world. So unless we’re shooting sewage into our pregnant uteruses (uteri?) for the entirety of pregnancy, I don’t see how this could even be close to relevant, nevermind that fish and mammals are completely different classes.

  50. leah
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Let’s stop blaming ALL Catholics for shitty things the Pope says.
    Most Catholics I know (myself included) were pissed off about his selection as Pope. Most Catholics are a fucking hell of a lot more progressive than the Pope or the (crazy fundie practically evangelical) American College of Bishops.
    There are a lot of Catholic feminists and even female Catholic priests out there trying to change the Church. Let’s not make this about us v. them because that’s a false dichotomy.

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