Groups ask U.S. EPA to ban chemical in detergent that feminizes fish

Your detergent gets your clothes clean, sure — but does it feminize your trout? Five green groups and a labor union are petitioning the U.S. EPA to ban a family of chemicals used in cleaning products that have been linked to gender changes in fish. Each year, the U.S. produces about 400 million pounds of nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates, much of which ends up in waterways by way of sewers. In lab tests, the endocrine disruptors have been shown to cause male fish to develop female characteristics; finned fatales have also been found in the wild. While the effects on humans aren’t known, the groups — led by the Sierra Club — say the environmental risks are “unreasonable.” Some major companies, including Unilever and Procter & Gamble, have stopped using the chemicals, and Wal-Mart has asked its suppliers to phase them out as well. The EPA, which is instituting its own voluntary “Safer Detergents” program, has 90 days to respond to the petition. We’ll give you one good guess on the outcome.