Endocrine disruptors found in SA water

2013-02-21 13:20
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town – A 200-page report on Endocrine Disrupting compounds (EDCs) released by the UN earlier this week has highlighted environmental and health risks facing many countries including South Africa.

The compounds have the potential to cause wide ranging health complications including breast cancer in women, prostate cancer, attention deficit and hyperactivity in children, as well as thyroid cancer.

According to Professor Edmund Pool, University of the Western Cape expert on EDCs, sewage treatment plants do not remove all the compounds.

“All the sewage treatment plants I’ve tested in the Western Cape were found to remove 80% of hormones, the untreated 20% has been shown to be able to change the morphology and sex ratios of some animals like fishes, frogs, and crabs,” he told News24.

Pool said EDCs eventually make its way back into the ecosystem when "treated" water is discharged into the sea and rivers. Threats to humans emerge when the compounds enter the food chain through vegetables (and often fish) via irrigation with toxic water.

“EDCs eventually get lodged in humans’ body tissues, more concerning is that it can sit in the reproductive organs where it is carried over to offspring,” Pool said.

Health effects

The UN report, State of Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012, describes EDCs as “...a mixture that alters functions of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny”.

Bettina Genthe, senior researcher in human health aspects of water at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said that thousands of chemicals like pesticides, industrial chemicals, and plasticisers contain endocrine disruptors.

“Even metals like cadmium, arsenic, lead, mercury, and aluminium have been shown to have an effect,” she told News24.

No protection for SA citizens

Both Genthe and Pool have highlighted the fact that no South African legislation exists to protect citizens from EDCs.

The only protection is broadly stated in Chapter 2 of South Africa’s Bill of Rights.

The Bill states that “everyone has the right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation”.

Department of Water Affairs was not available for comment by the time of publication.

- Follow Dane on Twitter
Read more on:    un  |  water  |  environment  |  pollution

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.