plants and animals

Compound found in contraceptives might turn male frogs into females



Editor and Artist
Ethinyl estradiol (EE2), a synthetic estrogen commonly used in birth control pills, may be found polluting water bodies. Male frogs exposed to the compound might undergo sex reversal, threatening reproduction rate in the long run.

Amphibians, particularly frogs, are widespread and often found living close to human settlements. As a result, various substances from industrial or residential area which manage to slip through sewage treatment systems may have direct impact to these animals. A team of researchers from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, assessed the risks posed by these chemicals to the frogs.

The team hypothesized that various species of frogs may react differently to hormonally active substances such as EE2. By raising three species of frogs and exposing them to EE2 in different concentrations, the team were able to measure how they reacted to the substance.

After the exposure, although all three species showed different sensitivity to the chemical, 15%-100% of the frogs underwent sex reversal. Considering the global trend of decline in amphibian population, this finding may be important to eliminate and mitigate the threat that might further put the animals at risk. Studying amphibians may also help to determine the health of an ecosystem and identify potential risks to humans, as their habitat is interconnected with our own water supply.