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Report: Chemicals From Everyday Products Causing Intersex Fish

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By Patrick Madden

Researchers at a local non-profit say hormone-disrupting chemicals are seeping into the Potomac River and creating a "toxic stew" for fish and other wildlife. Their names are exotic: biphenol, atrazine, estradiol. But these chemicals are found in everyday products: plastic drinking bottles, weed-killers, birth control pills. And, according to the Potomac Conservancy, when these and thousands of other chemicals drain into the Potomac through run-off and treated sewage, the resulting compounds can wreak havoc on a fish's hormonal and sexual development.

A federal study in April found 80 percent of small mouth bass in the Potomac had both male and female characteristics. Potomac Conservancy President Hedrick Belin says these intersex fish are "a canary in the coal mine."

"These new pollutants, they don't set our rivers on fire, they don't wash up on shore, we don't see them or smell them, but this intersex fish development is a clear signal that something is wrong," says Belin.

The report says its not clear what impact these chemicals have on humans. Ninety percent of the area's drinking water comes from the Potomac.

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