Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


Atlantic Salmon fall to the inert ingredient within a pesticide mixture used to fight spruce budworm infestations.

Research by W.L Fairchild in Canada and S.S. Masden in Europe point to an unexpected cause of the near extinction of Atlantic Salmon: nonylphenol used as a surfactant in Matacil 1.8D, an insecticide used aggressively to combat spruce budworm. If confirmed by additional work, this is likely to become a classic example of endocrine disruption.

Fairchild's research indicates that nonylphenol inteferes with the ability of salmon smolts to mature physiologically. Exposed to nonylphenol, they cannot switch their osmoregulatory system from fresh water, where they hatch, to salt water, into which they migrate in the first fall of their life. This switch is normally mediated by estrogen. Apparently nonylphenol's estrogen mimickry disrupts the switch. Thus when the smolts reach the ocean after migrating downstream, they die.

It is a classic case of endocrine disruption for two reasons. First, as an "inert" ingredient, nonylphenol is supposedly benign. Second, there is no sign of impact when the smolts are sprayed. It is only later in life that, when challenged by salt water, that they reveal their hormonal system has been fatally disrupted.

An excellent summary of the research to date on this can be found in an article by Janet Raloff in Science News.

And an update: Atlantic Salmon's precipitous decline continues as experts debate the causes. By and large the fisheries types who are involved in attempting to manage this and related crises are ignorant of the research cited above and its implications.




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