Estrogen in waterways affecting fish development and reproduction

KENORA, Ont. – A recent study in a northwestern Ontario lake has proven that just small amounts of estrogen added to a freshwater lake can have severe effects on fish development. The study was led by Dr. Karen Kidd, fish scientist and biology professor at the University of New Brunswick. Small amounts of estrogen were dropped into a relatively small lake and their effects were monitored. As it turned out, minnows were the most affected species of fish. Male minnows lost signs of maleness and some even began producing eggs in part-female sex organs. Female fish were also affected, but to a lesser extent. The population of these fish, which despite their small size still play an important role in the food chain, dropped dramatically. This experiment simulated actual release of estrogen into waterways from sewage. Most of the estrogen is released from unused birth control pills that are dumped down toilets. Kidd said, “A lot of follow-up studies showed it was the natural estrogens that women excrete and then the synthetic estrogens in birth control pills that were the main cause of feminization in male fish. The pill is one of the most heavily prescribed pharmaceuticals in the world. There are over a million women on it Canada.” Kidd says this area should be a research priority. Other studies have found that reproductive problems in human males have been rising in recent decades and excess estrogen in the water supply has been fingered as a factor.

Quebec health minister opposes euthanasia

QUEBEC CITY – A recent Ipsos Reid survey for CanWest Global indicates that 71 per cent of Canadians agree it should be legal for a doctor to assist in the death of a terminally ill patient. Respondents in the province of Quebec had the highest level of support at 84 per cent, while Alberta had the lowest at 61 per cent. Despite this, Quebec’s health minister, Philippe Couillard, believes it would be “a little bit fearful living in a society that qualifies legally how to kill someone.” Couillard was a practising physician for 20 years and specialized in neurosurgery. He dealt frequently with terminally ill patients. Couillard wondered, “Who defines what is quality of life? Who defines when the quality of life is not good or not worth living?” He warned: “There is potential of abuse here; there is potential of ethical slip.”More fathers taking paternity leave

OTTAWA – A Stats Can survey has revealed the number of fathers taking at least some paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child rose from 38 per cent to 55 per cent between the years 2001 and 2006. The number of mothers taking maternity leave remained steady at around 90 per cent. Nearly two-thirds of mothers (62 per cent) found the transition back to work stressful, compared to only 35 per cent of men. Still, 86 per cent of parents said they were ultimately satisfied with their return to work, whereas 23 per cent did not go back to work at all, with more than half of those saying they wanted to raise their own children and a quarter of stay-at-home parents saying it was because they found childcare too expensive. Nearly one in 10 stay-at-home parents (8 per cent) did not return to work, because they had lost their jobs. Generally, women stayed home longer then men, with eight out of 10 parents citing financial reasons for returning to work.
Co-chair of fertility board rejects criticism

OTTAWA – The board of the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency appointed last year by Health Minister Tony Clement has held its first meeting. It has been criticized, however, by some couples trying to conceive children as “lacking the voices of fertility specialists and their patients.” Elinor Wilson, co-chair of the board the Canadian Public Health Association, says that the criticisms are unfair. In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, she said that, “We do have a very wide variety of skills and expertise on the board and I think we are just moving forward and working with the excellence that we have. And we do have the ability to set up committees or advisory panels in the short term if we feel that we are missing any particular expertise.” She also noted that, “We do not make regulations so we are not making the types of decisions that might be subject to potential influence of any kind. We are really an operation agency that is going to be making the decisions, based on the act and the regulations, about licences being granted to clinics to carry out these procedures.”

Canadians willing to receive,
but not donate, organs

TORONTO – A survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid finds that while 95 per cent of Canadians are willing to accept a donated organ when they are in need, only 65 per cent have made arrangements to donate their own organs upon death. This means that nearly one in three Canadians would receive an organ, but not donate one. Willingness to donate and receive varies slightly among region, income level and age group. The survey also found that 75 per cent of those who would consider donating an organ have discussed their wishes with their family. About 7 per cent are uncomfortable with their family members’ wishes to donate, yet 77 per cent of those whose family members are uncomfortable with them donating would donate regardless.

Parents oblivious to what
kids are doing online

TORONTO – Canadian teachers, police officers and government representatives agree that parents must do more to monitor what their children are doing online. Arni Stinnissenof the Ontario Provincial Police says, “Parents either don’t know, don’t care or don’t want to know. The piece that’s missing is the parents. They haven’t had the hard talk. Programs are being introduced to teach kids responsibility online.” Seminars are also being organized to teach parents about the internet, so parents can monitor what their kids are doing online and be alerted if they find something suspicious. Quentin D’Souza of the Toronto Catholic District School Board organizes some of these meetings. At the last one, only two people showed up, even though he was expecting around 100 participants. Former OPP officer Rob Nickel says, “Don’t blame MySpace. They (parents) have to get more involved with what their kids are doing online.”

Study proposes single-embryo IVF treatment

EDMONTON – A recent study has recommended that legislation to limit each cycle of in-vitro fertilization to one embryo should be passed in an attempt to reduce the number of pre-term, low-weight babies. Often, during IVF procedures, couples implant several embryos to increase their chances. This results in a larger number of multiple births, as well as pre-term and underweight babies. These babies are more prone to health problems at birth and later in life. The report says limiting IVF procedures to one embryo per pregnancy may reduce health costs. Shoo Lee, scientific director for Edmonton’s Integrated Centre for Care Advancement through Research, said, “This would dramatically reduce the number of pre-term births and multiple pregnancies and result in better outcomes.” Pro-life advocates would support the move, noting that so-called “leftover” embryos are often destroyed.

B.C. doctor sentenced for assisting suicide attempt

VERNON, B.C. – Dr. Ramesh Kumar Sharma, a Vernon-area general practitioner, has been convicted of helping Ruth Wolf, 92, attempt to commit suicide. Wolf, who suffered from congenitive heart failure, approached him in June 2006 and allegedly asked Sharma to help her die. He provided her with a deadly dose of pills. The suicide attempt was unsuccessful after nursing home staff discovered her pills. Apparently, this is the first case if its kind in B.C. and, although Sharma won’t face any jail time, he will be suspended from practising medicine and will have to pay $9,000 to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, which is about half the cost of its independent investigation into the allegations. Sharma is no stranger to controversy. He was suspended for one year after being found guilty of having sex with a patient in his office in 2001.

B.C. polygamists not charged yet

VICTORIA – British Columbia Attorney-General Wally Oppal has appointed a special prosecutor to determine whether members of Canada’s openly polygamist community, the Mormon town of Bountiful with a population of about 800, should face charges. The appointment comes after a lengthy probe into the community. This news was disappointing for polygamy opponents who say it is time for charges and that there is no need for another lawyer to investigate the case. Oppal, known to be critical of polygamy, said that although he would like to see charges laid, “The religious rights of a particular sect or a particular person will trump any right to prosecute. In other words, there is a fundamental religious right for a person to engage in acts of polygamy. That’s what’s been suggested to us. I’m not sure that’s a correct legal position.” Meanwhile, Winston Blackmore, the Mormon leader of the polygamist community, said he doubts B.C. authorities would ever collect enough evidence to charge him. He says: “The attorney-general is nothing more than prejudiced” and “has a political agenda.” Blackmore denies he arranges for girls as young as 14 and 15 to marry older men; however he says that anywhere in this country or the United States, “a 16-year-old girl, (with her parents’ permission) can go get married, whether they’re 90 or the same-sex in our country. And I am not going to begin to be their conscience – all I’m saying is: be old enough to make a good decision.”