Green Birth Control?? What About Green Hamburgers?


Green seems to be the color on everyone’s mind, and lately that has come to include birth control. A green contraceptive is something we should work toward but it won’t prevent the growing number of gender bending fish in our waterways.

Synthetic estrogen used in oral contraceptives contributes only 1% to the total amount of estrogens excreted by humans.  Additionally, almost half of this synthetic estrogen is filtered out during our wastewater treatment processes. Of all the estrogen sent into our water supply through human biology, only a very minute fraction is synthetic. Clearly, there are other sources contributing to gender confusion in fish.

If we really care about our environment and our water supply, I’d like to suggest an alternative culprit: hamburgers. It turns out cows, chickens and pigs contribute an estimated 90% of estrogens to the environment. Yes, 90%. So if we really want to green our water supply, we need to start by greening our dinner. How? Well, first we’d stop pumping our livestock full of hormones or, at the very least, we would treat agriculture manure. Studies have shown that hormones from animal manure reach both surface and ground water and that livestock pumped full of hormones increase their excretion of these hormones up to six fold.[1]

If we are going to be concerned about synthetic human estrogen in our water, we also need to pay attention to other likely culprits, and both industrial and agricultural sources need to be considered.

I find it troubling that we have dramatized the contribution of estrogens in our environment to women on the pill. I’m not suggesting we should ignore the impact of estrogens in our environment. In fact, quite the opposite. Clearly, the types and sources of estrogens in the environment are diverse and cumulative. Natural estrogens (agriculture and natural human excretion) as well as synthetic estrogens and estrogen-mimicking compounds (other pharmaceutical uses, industrial chemicals, pesticides, plastics, etc) are present in our waterways and cannot be discounted as sources of the observed phenomena in fish, even at trace levels. What I am suggesting is that we stop the knee-jerk response that reducing estrogens is as simple as reducing women’s use of birth control pills. It is estimated that unregulated agricultural run off annually contributes 13 tons of hormones to our water sources. Clearly, we need to broaden the conversation.

What else can we do? First, we need to reform our chemical policy in the United States so that harmful estrogen-mimicking compounds found in our everyday products stay off the shelves. The burden cannot and should not be on individuals and communities to protect the health of their families. Instead, we need reform that requires pre-market safety testing of all our consumer goods and personal care products. Second, as the 50th anniversary of the pill is on the horizon, I’d like to ask my friends and allies to take some time to appreciate and even celebrate contraception. Modern contraception enables women to choose the number and timing of their children, which is central to our health and economic well-being. And, where all women have access to affordable contraception, birthrates decline and population growth slows. Slower population growth is not a panacea for today’s environmental problems, but it can ease pressure on natural systems that are reeling from stress. So, contraception is good for women—and for the planet.

In the meantime, we might think about forgoing that next hormone-riddled bacon cheeseburger. 

References: Callantine MR, et al. "Fecal elimination of estrogens by cattle treated with diethylstilbestrol and hexestrol." Am J Vet Res. (1961) 22:462-465.

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  • invalid-0

    Of course, the easiest way to cut down on the hormonal pollution is to stop eating meat in the first place. Anyone for a vegeburger? Pass the relish, please …

  • invalid-0

    Excellent article!

  • invalid-0

    Great points you raise that we need to do more to identify and reduce a variety of sources of synthetic estrogen and toxic chemical compounds in our food and personal products, however, I think you are missing the point about the dangers of synthetic estrogen and the values of ‘green birth control.’ Unfortunately, hormone-based contraceptives are NOT necessarily good for women nor the environment, which is why those little pill packs and vaginal rings come labeled with a long list of warnings for possible side-effects and associated serious health risks. The numerous class action lawsuits representing thousands of women worldwide who have suffered pulmonary embolisms, strokes, DVT and a variety of other injuries on brands like Yasmin and NuvaRing are not something to flagrantly disregard or dismiss, as you do in this article. I personally find it appalling that teenage girls and young women are dropping dead from using products that are represented as harmless birth control and safe panaceas for routine teenage acne, and I expect a hell of a lot more i terms of research and regulation than what we’re seeing now. Yes, birth control is good for women and good for the environment, but we can choose to be responsible about what we are putting in our bodies and stop settling for harmful drugs when there are healthier options available to us. Why would you suggest that women have to settle for less (as we always do in health care)and that we should celebrate a pharmaceutical product with a history of dangerous consequences? Perhaps you are the one who needs the reality check.

    • invalid-0

      I LOVE my NuvaRing.
      I had migraines on every other oral birth control method out there until I tried it.
      It’s expensive sure but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
      I work for a company that monitors drug trials and patients rights and I know that there are no perfect drugs but people who go on certain drugs also are on other drugs and some have a whole host on concomittant issues, chronic disease, etc.
      So please, do your reasearch, save your handwringing, get out and take a walk in the sunshine or something – learn that other people have the right to make their own desicions about their body using safe, effective methods of birth control.
      Besides, you’d think anti-choicers like you would be happy that there will be at least one less abortion to worry about.

  • invalid-0

    which is why those little pill packs and vaginal rings come labeled with a long list of warnings for possible side-effects and associated serious health risks.

    Welcome to modern pharmacology. Everything has side effects—taking a drug, like so many other things we do, is a calculated risk.

    If you’re going to rail against the potential side effects of modern drugs, please don’t target your criticism toward birth control specifically. We wouldn’t want to think you’re one of those kooks who want to eliminate contraceptive options for women, would we now?

    • invalid-0

      That is quite a leap you take to assume that I question the safety of hormone-based birth control exclusively. As the article is about birth control, not smoking cessation or cholesterol drugs, and the author made a somewhat sarcastic attack on the very idea that birth control can be ‘green’ I replied accordingly.

      I have been using the FAM method with the support of technology for a number of years — and yes, it is effective, safe, reliable and GREEN. The very reason I began using this method and swore off hormone-based contraceptives was due to the unbearable side-effects of those drugs. Not only have I taken responsibility for my body, my actions are definitely better for the environment as well as the method does not produce waste of any sort.

      Agreed, many of the drugs produced today result in serious side-effects, but we should be taking bolder steps to ensure that consumers are protected. I find it unreasonable to suggest that we should discourage women from protecting themselves and choosing healthier options for family planning.

    • invalid-0

      I totally agree with you so my husband does all of my charting with the “fertileview” software program. The side effects include: personal cycle education, understanding, and awareness. It creates a longing and a desire which increases intimacy! I do not have to put chemicals and hormones into my body! I know when I am fertile and when I am not. It is also a great tool for infertility…

  • invalid-0

    The twin pillars of modern medicine are pharmacological drugs and surgery, and women have been subjected to generous doses of both at least since the 1950s, with the c-section rate now about 1 in 3 deliveries, with the accompanying side effects. Currently, drug companies are aggressively marketing to men, so we can expect very shortly that men will suffer side effects more equally.

    While this is completely outside the world view of this website, there are women who successfully negotiate the course of their lives avoiding care-by-intervention and thus, the side effects of such interventions. It requires an interest and a certain degree of self-education but is very satisfying in terms of health, happiness and ecology.

    If you are very open-minded, you may be able to benefit from the information accessible through http://www.ccli.org.

  • invalid-0

    I have been going green with my fertility with a software program from Novuscor called “fertileview” It is an amazing charting tool for women! I chart my fertility signs and the program gives me a result based on my fertility goal of either acheiving or avoiding. Did you know that your fertililty can be an indicator of other things going on in your body? Such as thyroid or low progesterone…It is an empowering thing to understand your fertility- that is why I love fertileview!!!! Go green with your fertility with the side effects being increased knowledge, understanding, and intimacy- not taking each other for granted and appreciating the gift of being together!!!!

    • invalid-0

      I was on the pill and went off hoping to acheive a pregnancy however it was not that simple. Unfortunately the advice of trying every other day was not helpful we were unsuccessful in acheiveing. Now I too am using the novuscor “Fertileview” software program my doctor recommended to me. Not only are there no negative side effects but it is easy to use. Before I started to use the software I was charing my fertility on paper charts not knowing or understand what it all meant…My husband and I had been trying for three years and now we are clear on the best days to try and acheive. Having gone through so much pain and frustration I am glad to finally say that we have successfully acheived a pregnancy! Thanks “Fertileview!”

  • http://www.netvibes.com/pharmacy-store invalid-0

    very good article! thanks

  • invalid-0

    Tracking your fertility doesn’t work if you have an irregular cycle. I am sure that my husband and I are not the only couple who find that having sex when we are not supposed to makes for really hot, naughty nookie. This is not a good birth control method.

    • invalid-0

      It is true tracking cycles that aren’t regular is an awesome way to understand what is happening with your body. For example I learned through my charting my thyroid was a little off…not to mention I have family members with breast cancer and my practitioners have warned me not to take any thing hormonal at all under any circumstances- so tracking my fertility with “FertileView” has been the best medicine and you are correct it is awesome for keeping the fire and spice in your relationship! It is super easy to do, use and understand and there are definate health benefits that go along with this incredibly proactive approach!

  • invalid-0

    Anon, that is a common misconception about fertility awareness. You don’t need a “regular” cycle to use this method and, in fact, MOST women have fairly irregular cycles. Fertility awareness (or the “sympto-thermal method”) is easy to use and extremely effective. Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility explains the three things to look for when tracking your fertility. Anyone can learn how. And, you can have sex anytime you want to, you just do so with the knowledge of when and if you’re ovulating. If you don’t want to conceive, you use a barrier method when you’re fertile (you don’t have to abstain).

  • http://www.zippy-health.com/ invalid-0

    Having babies is a big and very important decision. It should be planned well. There are many women who fear of getting pregnant. Some of the fears are scared of losing their freedom, losing their job, scared of taking responsibility, loosing figure. Some think they don’t have enough money to have a child. But one can over come out of it by managing everything properly. To get some tips on how to over come the fear of getting pregnant, refer Getting Pregnant

  • crowepps

    I went to the site and took a look at it.   In my personal opinion it provides an unrealistically rosy view of pregnancy and having children, particularly having children AND a career.  "Managing your time effectively" and prioritizing doesn’t even begin to cover it.

     

    The assumption seems to be that women who have actual reasons: losing their job, loss of freedom, not wanting the responsibility, general economic concerns, not wanting their bodies to change, are not being rational.  This are not ‘fears’ – they are reality.  Women who know these realities full-well nevertheless get pregnant because they WANT children.  The more realistic they are about what is involved, the more likely it is they will be able to be good mothers.  Women who are not eager to have children shouldn’t have them.

  • http://www.bulwarkpestcontrol.com/raleighpestcontrol.php invalid-0

    What an interesting article. I have posted comments on this site before and one just the other day concerning “green” birth control. I don’t know about being politically correct or environmentally correct, all I know is that I want birth control that is going to work without worrying about new side effects or whether or not it is “green”.

    • invalid-0

      I am not willing to put any hormones or chemicals in my body to try to control my fertility. I know too many people who have gotten pregnant relying on Hormonal birthcontrol I chart my fertility with “FertileView” software there are absolutely no negative side effects only increased knowledge and understanding of this amazing body system. It is super easy to use and very user friendly- I have learned to master my fertility signs by tracking them. So I am confident about when I am fertile and when I am not. It is awesome I don’t have to take any thing or risk anything!

  • http://www.hotpepperdisplays.com invalid-0

    Very interesting article. Thanks!

  • invalid-0

    And it compliments the true nature of the woman’s body. Artificial contraception takes a perfectly well functioning bodily process and stops it. That will always come with damaging side effects. Birth control pill can also be an abortifacient, meaning that sometimes it kicks in after fertilization and kills a human life. Any true environmentalist fundamentally should control natural processes of the body by natural methods. Athletes should work out harder rather than take steroids, teenage girls should responsibly sun bath rather than go to tanning booths, and women should practice natural family planning if they truly respect their bodies.

  • invalid-0

    women should practice natural family planning if they truly respect their bodies.

    See, it is comments like this that get on my nerves. Women who practice non NFP birth control do not respect their bodies? Who made that rule? I can, with as much validity, claim that women truly respect their bodies when they choose the form of contraception that best fits their needs, health, lifestyle and relationships.

  • invalid-0

    Women who practice non NFP birth control do not respect their bodies? Who made that rule?

    Conservative Catholics.

    I can, with as much validity, claim that women truly respect their bodies when they choose the form of contraception that best fits their needs, health, lifestyle and relationships.

    I would say you have far more validity. After all this person is trying to dishonestly persuade others that a birth ‘control’ method with a failure rate of 25% is a viable or effective choice.