New Leaf: Environmental effects of birth control

By Lauren Belcher |
Photo by Philip C. Sunkel IV

When a women takes her birth control pill every morning, there are many things running through her mind. My guess is that the last thing on her mind is how her choice is affecting the planet.

This segment is not just limited to “The Pill.” Technically, any medicine that is adding artificial female hormones into your system will fit into what I’m about to say.

You’re neutering male fish.

Well, to be fair, so am I. I have taken birth control contraceptives since I was 16 years old, and now I find out that every time I used the bathroom I was causing horrible consequences to aquatic life…Wait, let me back up, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Facts

Birth control contains artificial hormones: estrogen and progesterone.

When not natural, these hormones will eventually exit your body just like any other substance (hence why you have to keep taking it.)

Without going into gruesome details, I’ll explain the next process:

You potty. (No. 1 mostly)
No. 1 goes down the drain, full of artificial female hormones.
The sewage treatment cleans the sewage and sends the water back into the environment.
But, unfortunately for the fishes, the water is not clear of the hormones.
The water enters a body of water and is now interacting with aquatic organisms.
These aquatic organisms, even the male ones, have no choice but to ingest the hormone-filled water day after day.
Eventually, as time goes by, the fish are highly feminized.
The male fish are neutered, and the lady fish cry a lot more (Just kidding!)

Now, all jokes aside, this may seem like a tiny, isolated situation, but imagine how many women use birth control. Now imagine that number times how many times the average person uses the bathroom in a day.

I’ll help you do the math!

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2002, approximately 24.3 percent of women in the United States were using some form of birth control contraceptives. Multiply that by the number of women in the United States today.

38,388,957 women are using birth control in the United States.

That’s a lot of pee. Not to mention, those birth control numbers are from 2002. I imagine many more people are using these methods today.

According to Nina Shen Rastogi from, the “greenest form of birth control” is…the IUD.

“The copper IUD is hormone-free; made from a small amount of a cheap, plentiful metal,” Rastogi said, “and can last up to 10 years.”


Now, if you don’t care about the fishes, that’s fine. But it should raise a question…if these hormones could effect a male fish so greatly, what is it doing to my body?

Another question…this cycle of estrogenic water is a never ending cycle. Eventually it ends up in our drinking water. So, what could happen to males who are constantly drinking this water?

It’s definitely something to think about, and unfortunately, I don’t have a universal answer.

Lauren Belcher is managing editor for The Gargoyle. In her column, New Leaf, she introduces environmental issues and offers ways to fight environmental destruction. She is a Communication major and Environmental Science minor at Flagler College.

More on Birth Control:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "New Leaf: Environmental effects of birth control"

Leave a comment