One of the most prominent – and highly debated – environmental impact of birth control pills has to do with reduction in fertility levels of male fish. What happens is synthetic estrogen from women taking birth control pills enters waterways through sewage-treatment plants – this then affects the fertility of the fish living in that water. For instance, in a 2005 study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, trout in Washington state were found to exhibit both male and female characteristics, a change attributed to synthetic estrogen found in the water.
There is some evidence to indicate that the affect of synthetic estrogen is not limited to fish populations. In a study done by the Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory, local otters and frogs, for instance, also possess higher levels of female hormones, making the males “less male”. It should be noted, however, that there remains a great deal of debate on the extent to which these changes can be attributed strictly to birth control pills, as opposed to other toxins and pharmacological pollutants found in the water.
I interpreted the question as asking “What is the environmental effect of humans taking birth control?” In other words, of controlling the human population.
From the words of Jotham Musinguzi, the regional Africa director for Partners in Population and Development:
“Recent research suggests that simply meeting existing “unmet need” [for birth control] would deliver up to one-seventh of the carbon reductions essential to slow global warming, and at a very low cost. With women empowered to plan their pregnancies, the world’s population grows more slowly, as do carbon emissions.”
In other words, less overpopulation means less emissions. It absolutely makes sense by all means.
I am not sure if you mean in terms of human impact of taking the pill – in which case I would say the effects have been enormous. In the first few years after the introduction of the pill – womens attendance and graduation rates increased markedly. The ability for a women to puruse not only an educaiton, but a career was also due in large part to the pill. In terms of third world countries, the ability to allow people to control pupulation in such an inexpensive way, has had an impact in terms of health care, education, food and water distribution and also for those impacted by atrocities of war.
If the question is directed to the effects on the environment itself, there is evidence that it impacts not only local fish populations but potentially higher up the food chain. But there is a quite a number of pharmaceuticals that show up in watersheds and water treatment plants. The pill and other hormones as well as antibiotics, medication to treat mental health issues and pain relievers are shed through urine, passed through when washed down a sink and show up in land fills when tossed in the garbage as well and equally have negative impacts on our environment.
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