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Sewage linked to fish-gender quirks

6:39am, November 5, 2003

From New Orleans, at the e.hormone 2003 Conference

During dry spells, the water in some streams can come mostly from municipal sewage-treatment plants. A new study finds reproductive impairments among fish residing in such waters.

Alan Vajda and his colleagues at the University of Colorado in Boulder sampled white suckers and flathead chubs upstream and downstream of waste-treatment plants on three Colorado rivers. He harvested the fish during last year's drought, when each stream's flow was dominated by sewage effluent.

Fish upstream of a Boulder treatment plant were fairly evenly divided between males and females. However, 93 percent of the 60 fish caught downstream in the same river were females. Ovaries in many of these fish were smaller than those in their upstream cousins, contained testicular tissue, bore an unusual shape, and held less-developed eggs.

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