Dicey waters

 
Published: Friday 15 January 1999

nine out of 10 Japanese waterways are contaminated with hormone-disrupting chemicals, according to the country's Environment Agency. A survey conducted by the agency found that 11 such chemicals are polluting 93 per cent of the 130 rivers, lakes, marshes, groundwater and marine sites sampled. Nonyl phenol, used in the manufacture of surface-active agents, resins and plasticisers, was found in 76 per cent of sites tested, with concentrations reaching 7.1 micrograms per litre in the Nikko River in central Japan.

Bisphenol A, the plastics additive responsible for disrupting sex hormones in laboratory animals, was found in 68 per cent of waterways, and di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, another plasticiser, was recorded at 55 per cent of sites. The survey tested for 22 suspected hormone-disrupting compounds, but the agency said it could not yet fully assess the extent or causes of the pollution. Further research is planned to evaluate the impact of the contamination.

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