An investigation is to be carried out into pollution levels in the upper Potomac River in West Virginia in response to high numbers of fish that share the sexual characteristics of both genders. Blood-plasma studies are also being carried out on male fish which display female characteristics.

It is thought that the fish’s endocrine system that secretes hormones dictating its sexual and reproductive features may have been compromised by pharmaceuticals from industrial and household waste flowing into the river. US Geological Survey scientists have found chemical waste in water at eight sites, some of which were home to fish showing no mixed sex characteristics.

Mixed sexual traits are a common phenomenon in both the US and Europe, and studies have shown that chemicals that damage the endocrine system are widespread in the environment.

Simon Jennings

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