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Scientists probe effect of chemicals on wildlife

Scientists say micro-pollutants are to blame for dwindling fish stocks Keystone Archive

The Swiss National Science Foundation has announced a SFr15 million research programme to examine the effects of synthetic chemicals on humans and animals.

This content was published on June 22, 2001 - 13:53

Experts believe that artificial chemicals in the environment can disrupt hormones by sending false signals or blocking legitimate ones. Such substances are causing increasing concern around the world.

The new study hopes to reveal how and why these hormone disruptors are damaging human and animal health.

"Research results have shown that endocrine disruptors are present in low concentrations in the environment and have effects on wildlife populations," said Barbara Flückiger, scientific collaborator at the National Science Foundation.

"They can cause cancer, birth defects and even immune problems - anything that's related to the hormone system of an organism, an animal or a human."

The research programme will last five years. Scientists are invited to apply for funding.

Meanwhile, the Swiss environment agency is funding a separate project into the decline of fish populations in Swiss rivers.

The study, called "Fischnetz" (or Fishing Net), will also examine why the health of fish has suffered so dramatically in recent years.

"There are all sorts of reasons for the decline of fish populations including river obstructions and the activities of predators," said project leader, Patricia Holm. "But the toxic property of chemicals is a key factor.

"The existence of these micro-pollutants even in small quantities can really impair the health of fish. They include pesticides as well as endocrine-disrupting chemicals like hormones and antibiotics."

by Vincent Landon

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