Q&A: Estrogen and Your Drinking Water

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

How Does Estrogen Get Into the Drinking Water Supply?

Q&A: Estrogen and Your Drinking Water

Estrogen enters the water supply through a number of sources, including human and animal waste as well as factory-made packaging. In the early stages of research on this topic, it was thought that women who take birth control pills excreted higher amounts of estrogen in their urine. However, more recent studies have shown that all humans, including men and children, contribute to the estrogen found in water supplies.

If you regularly drink bottled water, there is also cause for concern. In a German study, drinking water exhibited high amounts of estrogen-like compounds when packaged in plastic bottles.

How Much Water Contains Estrogen?

In an experiment conducted in the United States, 80% of the rivers involved held contaminated water. This occurrence is not unique to the United States; similar results have been found in Great Britain, and Italy.

Why Isn't the Hormone Removed When the Water Is Treated for Future Use?

In the case of bottled water, which ironically is often advertised as a "cleaner" source of water, the estrogen-like compounds are leaked into the water after packaging, which would occur after the water has been treated.

The larger supply of drinking water often comes from reusable sources; put simply, it's sewage. This water is treated before considered drinkable, but the treatment often consists of adding bacteria that break down pollutants in the water. These bacteria end up metabolizing an overwhelming majority of the estrogens (about 94%), which is impressive when one considers that the treatment process was not intended to address the problem of estrogenic compounds. However, the little estrogen that remains in the water is enough to have potentially damaging side effects if consumed on a long-term basis.

What Are the Effects of Estrogen in the Water Supply?

Q&A: Estrogen and Your Drinking Water

Estrogen in the water supply can lead to an increased exposure to xenohormones, which are substances that the body recognizes as naturally occurring hormones. Such exposure, if prolonged, can lead to an early onset of menstruation for young girls and hormonal imbalances in reproductive-aged women. Breast cancer is of particular concern for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women who absorb high levels of estrogen.

How Can I Avoid Estrogen in Drinking Water?

Unfortunately, completely avoiding drinking water with estrogen may be close to impossible. As a rule of thumb, tap water is better than bottled water when it comes to traceable amounts of estrogen. To lower overall exposure, there are also certain foods that you can avoid, such as non-organic produce and beef raised with hormones. It is a good idea to look for The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal of approval on these items.

Researchers are still studying the long-term effects of estrogen in drinking water and how to eliminate it.

Additional Information

Estrogen is a compound steroid made of estriol, estradiol, and estrone.Researchers are currently working to find a way to break down estradiol, which is often present in drinking water, to the weaker estrogen estrone. Click on the following link for more information about estrogen roles and effects.

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