One of the unfortunate byproducts about living in modern society is that many of the things that help us to live generate pollution. It could be air pollution from factories and cars, water pollution from oil spills and industrial effluent discharges, or soil contamination from hazardous waste disposal.
All of these things can be of concern to us because of the potential for health effects, degradation of property values, and harm to the overall environment and ecosystem.
Here in Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley, the quality of our air is among the worst in the entire nation. Experts say that the rate of respiratory illness, heart disease, and other illnesses are exacerbated by the air pollution we breathe every day.
Similarly, concerns have been raised about groundwater contamination and how that affects the water used for drinking, agriculture, ranching. and other interests.
The use of surface water and how it gets to where it is needed, not only in the San Joaquin Valley, but also throughout the state, always seems to be generating concerns and disputes between those who would use that water and those who are concerned about harm to fish and wildlife.
With that in mind, word comes from Great Britain of, shall we say, an unusual discovery that implicates water pollution with biological changes in certain mammals.
Researchers from the Cardiff University Otter Project and CHEM Trust (Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring Trust), have studied ten years worth of data on dead otters and have made some remarkable conclusions. The results probably raise eyebrows and maybe even cause a laugh or two, but, they nevertheless point to some disturbing biological changes that could pose problems for similar mammalian populations elsewhere, including here in California.
In a nutshell (no pun intended), the scientists have concluded that the size of the penises of the otters in Great Britain has been shrinking. They have concluded that water pollution, particularly pollution associated with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), could be to blame.
In a report entitled Persistent organic pollutants and indicators of otter health: other factors at play?, two leading researchers on otters, Dr. Elizabeth Chadwick and Dr. Eleanor Kean, found several signs of change in male otters including shrinking reproductive organs, an increase in cysts on the tubes that carry sperm, and an increase in undescended testicles (cryptorchidism).
Although the exact cause of these changes is unknown, various other studies, both in the laboratory and in wildlife, have suggested links between hormone disrupting chemicals and problems with male reproductive health.
Gwynne Lyons, Director of CHEM Trust, said: "If we are to protect our wildlife, we need good information on the reproductive health of key species in both the terrestrial and aquatic environments. These findings highlight that it is time to end the complacency about the effects of pollutants on male reproductive health, particularly as some of the effects reported in otters may be caused by the same EDCs that are suspected to contribute to the declining trends in men’s reproductive health and cause testicular cancer, undescended testes and low sperm count."
For further information on what they've found, please refer to the video link shown above.