International News Desk – At Home: Researchers find alarming levels of estrogen in St. Lawrence River – In Foreign News: UN-backed conference to tackle European racism

International News Desk – At Home: Researchers find alarming levels of estrogen in St. Lawrence River – In Foreign News: UN-backed conference to tackle European racism

At Home: Researchers find alarming levels of estrogen in St. Lawrence River

It’s been said that we’re one of the most highly medicated populations in history, and the results of that may be affecting more than our own bodies: researchers have found disturbingly high levels of estrogen in the waters of the St. Lawrence River.

The concentrations of estrogen are as high as 90 times the normal rate, according to researchers from l?Université de Montreal, and one of the areas where ?disturbing changes? are being seen is in an area of the St. Lawrence just downstream from Montreal.

As the CBC reports, researchers have found not only estrodiol (a naturally occurring hormone) but also ?synthetic estrogenic compounds.?

?What we measured is about 100 times more than the level known to have significant endocrine-disrupting effects,? said Sébastien Sauvé, a professor of environmental chemistry at the university.

?they’re really pharmaceuticals which are used either as contraceptives or in hormone replacement therapy,? he said.

Another possible source of the chemicals is industrial, including runoff from pulp and paper mills, and the byproducts that are produced when plastics decompose.

The effects of these high estrogen levels can be seen in fish, particularly their reproductive organs. In one study, researchers examining a common species of minnow in the area have found ?ovaries in the testes of one-third of the males.?

Daniel Cyr, a reproductive toxicologist at Quebec’s National Institute for Science Research, explained that ?What we saw was that in the male fish, many of the male fish were developing ovaries?true feminization.?

It doesn’t take a scientific background to make the average person wonder just how many other chemicals are ending up in the water, a concern elucidated by Anne Wordsworth, a research associate with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

?Pharmaceuticals are present around every big city in the water and that water is being retrieved and given to us as drinking water, so we could be exposing ourselves to very small quantities of a large number of prescription drugs,” she said.

Although the current process isn’t optimal for filtering these compounds, environmental engineers are hopeful that a new ozonation process will prevent hormones and other pharmaceuticals from entering the water system through human waste.

The $200 million project, although never tested in a treatment plant the size of Montreal’s, is currently under scrutiny by researchers, who aim ?to make sure the process will work on a grand scale.?

In Foreign News: UN-backed conference to tackle European racism

A United Nations-backed conference kicked off in Bologna on September 18, with the goal of fighting ?racism and discrimination in the everyday lives of people living in European cities.?

The conference is being held in partnership with the European Coalition of Cities against Racism and FC Barcelona.

The three-day meeting is part of a coalition launched in June?an international alliance of cities against racism and discrimination, established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the World Forum on Human Rights in Nantes, France. The coalition is part of a larger anti-racism initiative by UNESCO in 2004.

The Bologna conference, DiverCity: European Cities for an Inclusive Society, ?aims to provide participants with opportunities to formulate recommendations to fight racism encountered in daily life,? and will include round-table discussions intended to help mayors eliminate racism in their communities.

Recent news stories have highlighted the problems faced by some Muslim communities in Europe, as well the Sinti and Roma communities.

One of the groups at the conference is Youth Voices against Racism. Members work to fight racism in sports, and It’s hoped that the Bologna conference will help them come up with practical ideas to work toward that goal.

The Coalition of Cities against Racism, launched by UNESCO in 2004, aims to create a network of regional groups that will ?share experiences and join forces in the fight against racism, discrimination and xenophobia.?

As the UN News Centre reports, ?the European Coalition of Cities against Racism, which has 80 member cities in 17 countries, was the first such regional coalition.?

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