Trouble in the Waters

Exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), such as bisphenol A (BPA), can negatively affect human and animal health, especially the nervous and reproductive systems. For example, in a 2014 Post-Dispatch article, we shared that BPA can change the sex of a developing turtle if exposed while in the egg. Many turtles have a temperature-dependent sex determination, with cooler temperatures during incubation resulting in males and warmer in females. However, we have shown that eggs incubated at male temperatures will be feminized if exposed to BPA in ovo. The endocrine system is the exquisitely balanced system of glands and hormones that regulates such vital functions as body growth, response to stress, sexual development and behavior, production and utilization of insulin, rate of metabolism, intelligence and behavior, and the ability to reproduce. Over the past 60 years, a growing number of synthetic chemicals have been used in the production of almost everything purchased—from plastics and resins to pharmaceuticals. Many have been identified as EDCs that can mimic and interfere with natural hormones—chemicals that can now be found in our environment.

Researching for Clearer Waters

We are working with a group of partners from the University of Missouri-Columbia, United States Geological Survey and Westminster College to understand how BPA may affect native wildlife and people in Missouri and beyond. This study is the first comparative "cross taxa" analysis to evaluate how these EDCs may change the way genes are expressed in species ranging from fish to turtles to mice. We hope to provide important data to help with management decisions related to water quality in Missouri and beyond. Our inter-institutional team has also produced multiple articles of EDC in aquatic systems. Our work on EDC in Missouri is supported by a Mizzou Advantage Program grant.