New York: Do we realise how badly the plastics we use are affecting the environment? They have a debilitating effect on aquatic life in particular, says a new research.
A chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA) — widely used in resins that line plastic food and beverage containers — can alter turtles’ reproductive system and disrupt sexual differentiation, the study found.
BPA mimics oestrogen and the scientists are concerned the findings could indicate harmful effects on environmental and human health. “Normally, the painted turtle’s sex is determined by the temperature of the environment during their development in the egg.
“Cooler temperatures yield more male turtles, while warmer temperatures mean females are more likely to develop,” said Dawn Holliday from Westminster College in Fulton. Often, aquatic environments such as rivers and streams become reservoirs for BPA, and fish and turtle habitats are affected.
“However, when turtle eggs are exposed to environmental estrogens, their sex is no longer determined by the temperature but rather by the chemical to which they’re exposed,” Holliday explained.
Researchers applied a liquid form of BPA on hundreds of painted turtle eggs that were then exposed to cooler temperatures, comparable to those needed to produce male turtles.
Then, the scientists examined the turtles’ sex organs to determine the effects of BPA on their development. They found that the male turtles had developed sex organs with features typically found in females.
“Our findings show that BPA essentially overrides the temperature in determining the turtle’s sex, creating turtles that are probably unable to reproduce,” said Sharon Deem, director of the Saint Louis Zoo.
Turtles are known as an “indicator species” because they can be used as a gauge for the health of the entire ecosystem. By understanding the possible effects chemicals have on turtles, researchers might be able to understand the possible effects, the chemicals have on other species, even humans, Holliday said.