[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Elands neutered by Monsanto?
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue May 22 09:55:34 BST 2007
(I'm not sure what to make of this. Rietvlei, just outside Pretoria on
the R21 off the Irene exit, is my second favourite place to hang out in
Gauteng. I usually take visitors to the airport via the nature reserve
there. Eland and other buck, zebras, six rhino and four hippos are
ubiquitous, and there are even a couple of cheetahs once spotted. So
this is nasty news indeed. If Monsanto-supplied Roundup is the cause,
well that adds to our hatred of the Arkansas company.)
Rietvlei report: don't drink the roundup
11 May 2007 11:59
Hormones found in the Rietvlei Dam (above and below) are dangerous to
all life. (Photograph: Lisa Skinner)
One of Pretoria's main water sources is heavily polluted with toxic
chemicals that cause sexual mutations and long-term cancers, scientists
A hard-hitting report by a team of scientists documents sexual
abnormalities in fish and mammals at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, which
supplies a significant portion of the Tshwane metro council's water. The
report highlights the potential human health risks of chemicals known as
endocrine disruptors, which interfere with hormone production.
The report is based on a two-year study by researchers from the Water
Research Commission (WRC), the universities of Pretoria and
Potchefstroom, and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.
It says that hormones found in the Rietvlei Dam are "at levels up to 10
000 times higher than those known to cause initiate activity in breast
cancer cells … One can expect that untreated water used for domestic,
agricultural or recreational activities would result in unacceptably
high human health risks. These risks include carcinogenic risks, toxic
effects and endocrine disruption."
Sexual abnormalities caused by endocrine disruptors have been in the
headlines since the Mail & Guardian reported in March on disorders
documented by a Limpopo medical doctor, which he believed were linked to
the unregulated spraying of pesticides on farms around Groblersdal.
These included a five-year-old girl and teenage boys growing breasts,
miscarriages, partial facial paralysis, cancers and ear malfunctions.
The report on endocrine disruptors in Tshwane's water emerged during
recent tribunal hearings on objections to a new residential development
next to Rietvlei Nature Reserve. One concern was that the development
would add to water pollution.
The M&G has an executive summary of the report, which appears to have
become a hot potato between the WRC and the department of water affairs.
WRC communication officer Yuven Gounden refused to release the full
report, while admitting "it is almost ready to go to print".
"Research projects such as this one are a collaborative effort and
various role players need to network, compare findings and verify
results in order to publish and disseminate findings and recommendations
that are factually correct. Publishing a half-baked product will be
irresponsible," Gounden said.
Questions sent to the department, to which the WRC reports, went unanswered.
The report is unequivocal about the risks of the contamination at
Rietvlei: "The damaging impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals is
internationally no longer an issue of dispute," it says. "The risk is
not limited to reproductive health but also general health, including
immunity, thyroid function, neurodevelopment and others."
The researchers picked up an "extremely high" rate of intersex males and
gonadal malformations among catfish. There was also a skewed sex ratio
among frogs, a low sperm count among mice and the "novel finding of
penile agenesis in snails, which has not been reported in South African
Terrestrial animals also seemed affected. The report documents
calcification in elands' testes, and says this "may be the first
evidence that non-aquatic wildlife are also being impacted by
environmental pollution of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in South Africa.
"The findings in eland are similar to the testicular dysgenesis syndrome
in humans attributed to developmental exposures to chemicals."
Rietvlei, on Tshwane's southern edge, is one of the world's largest
urban nature reserves. Its two dams, Rietvlei and Marais, are connected
with a wetland and channel. The stream feeding this system receives
effluent from sewage plants, industries and informal settlements in the
According to a 2005 report on the City of Tshwane's website, the major
contaminants in the region include manure, sewage, fertilisers and
pesticides. Recent international research has linked organophosphates
and pesticides to sexual mutations and long-term cancers.
The site says that Rietvlei's water is blended with water from Rand
Water and from boreholes and springs for bulk distribution to the city.
In the scientific report on Riet-vlei, the researchers say the water is
being treated to remove "oestrogen-mimicking compounds. It appears the
treated water is safe to use, provided that the process remains
functional and there is no massive dumping of chemicals."
But they speculate that "unacceptable health risks" can be expected if
untreated water is used for domestic purposes. "The greatest health
concern would be if this water is used for irrigation of vegetables,
with a hypothetical risk of developing cancer calculated to be two in 1
000 for Riet-vlei Dam and one in 1 000 for Marais Dam! Any risk over one
in 100 000 is considered by the World Health Organisation to be
The researchers also discovered evidence of the endocrine-disrupting
metals cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic. Adding their possible effect,
they say "hazard quotients were 27 to more than 450 times higher than
that assumed to be safe. The cancer risk was calculated to be close to
one in 100."
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