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Hormones from oral contraceptives affects freshwater organisms

On Friday, March 18, Cecilia Hultin will defend her thesis in Environmental Science. Her research shows that ordinary Swedish freshwater organisms are affected by residues from hormone EE2, found in oral contraceptives.
Photo: Brian Eversham
Photo: Brian Eversham

Environmental problems originating from the use and discharge of human pharmaceuticals are not to be underestimated. Today, millions of women use oral contraceptives that, for example, contain the synthetic estrogen 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), and the western world consumes high amounts of antibiotics, painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. These pharmaceuticals eventually make their way to the aquatic environment, primarily due to poor sewage cleaning methods. In addition to the high consumption and poor removal in sewage treatment plants, other contributing factors include a high metabolic stability. 

Pharmaceuticals are known to significantly differ from classic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). A general toxicological effect is not expected; however, biological effects at low doses are thought to occur. Studies performing controlled laboratory exposures have documented a wide range of biological responses to low doses of pharmaceutical compounds in aquatic biota. For example, pharmaceutical compounds, such as EE2, have been shown to significantly affect sexual development and reproduction in teleost fishes at low but environmentally relevant concentrations. 

Utilizing molecular tools, my research further analyzed the mechanistic activities that cause these pharmaceutically induced biological responses in aquatic organisms. The general research objective of this thesis was to analyze how aquatic freshwater organisms are affected by exposure to pharmaceuticals that are categorized by the EU as potential risk factors to the environment (i.e., EE2 and diclofenac).

Why Environmental Science?

Cecilia Hultin. Photo: Anna Boo
I like Environmental science, because it is an applied and very broad research field. My PhD allowed me to combine my knowledge of Molecular Biology and my passion for the environment. My usage of non-conventional methods within Ecotoxicology has provided with new ideas on how freshwater fish and snails are affected by pharmaceuticals in the wild.

 

Thesis defence 

Cecilia Hultin will defend her thesis "Estrogen receptor and multixenobiotic resistance genes in freshwater fish and snails: identification and expression analysis after pharmaceutical exposure" on Friday 18 March, 9.00. 
Find all information about the thesis and thesis defence here.

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