Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011DC130B

Hormone Disruption and Environmental Pollutants in Anacostia and Potomac River Fish, Washington DC

Institute: District of Columbia
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $34,993

Principal Investigators: Stephen MacAvoy, Cathy Schaeff

Abstract: In 2005, the Washington Post reported that scientists had discovered intersexed male fish (i.e., oocytes in the testes) in all of the waterways tested around the Washington area (Farethold 2005). The culprit appeared to be water pollution containing anthropogenic sources of hormones and hormone mimics. The chemicals involved have been identified using numerous labels: endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs), hormone mimics, sex-hormone pollution and gender-benders, but they all do the same thing; they induce hormone-related changes in organisms that are out of synch with what is ‘normal’ for the species. Impacts from exposure include shifts in sex differentiation (Mills and Chichester 2005) with complete sex reversal in some species (Nagler, Bouma et al. 2001). Similar outcomes have been observed in a broad range of species including numerous fishes, amphibians, and a variety of mammals from across the world. There is great concern that the amount of anthropogenic hormones in waterways is increasing and thus the degree of stress acting on populations. As well, there is growing evidence to suggest that some of the consequences observed among fish are analogous to conditions observed among people (van Larebeke, Sasco et al. 2008).To date, only one study has been undertaken on local native fish and this work focused on bass (large or small mouth, depending on the location). The proposed study begins what we see as a multiyear research project examining the physiological and behavioral consequences of androgenic hormones on a range of native fresh water fishes. The objective is to investigate the relationship between individual condition and the presence/concentration of a host of organic and inorganic indicators of water quality (chemistry) including PAHs, alkanes, organochlorides, and hormones (estrogen and other cholesterols) in the water, sediment and fish tissue (liver, gonad) in a range of native fresh water fish species. The first step in this project will be to collect baseline data on fish condition and the relative concentrations of these compounds in the fish and the water and sediment in their environments. Fish collected will include species that utilize different portions of the water column (e.g., catfish and small mouth bass) as well as fish of different size and longevity (e.g., dace and shiners versus catfish and small mouth bass). Fish condition will be assessed by examining their gonadosomatic index (GSI; gonad weight/(body weight − gonad weight) 100), the stage of development of their gonads (maturity), determining what cell types present in their gonads, their intersex status, and any other abnormalities (including duct development). In 2011 we will measure and identify hormone-related products in water, sediment and fish collected from two locations, the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Since these rivers share similar inorganic geochemistry, comparison of these two data sets will enable us to better understand the relative importance of the organic compounds on fish development.