eggnog
Photo: Katie

As the holidays approach and our minds turn to family and friends, our tummies swell with the food and drink of the season.

From gingerbread houses and candy canes, to fat-filled eggnog. Eggnog is one of the worst things for calorie conscious people, it averages about 200 calories for just about half a cup! For comparison, there are about 110 calories in one cup of 1% milk and 130 calories in the same sized cup of 2% milk.

No wonder one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is losing weight!

Don’t worry, you can make diet eggnog using some artificial sweetener.

However, Canadian researchers recently found artificial sweeteners in our drinking water. The scientists weren’t looking to shed some pounds, rather they were tracing waste to see what our modern-day water filtration treatment systems catch – or more importantly — what they don’t.

The research team found elevated concentrations of cyclamate, saccharin, sucralose, and acesulfame in water samples collected along the length of the Grand River in Northern Ontario, Canada. These are the four commonly used sweeteners used in diet drinks, and the team estimates they got into the river via the 30 sewage treatment plants that dot the river and its tributaries.

Well, it wasn’t the sewage treatment plants fault these elements were leaking into the river – it’s a societal problem.

Anything we consume eventually passes through us, and back into our environment. Scientists have found the swamp of human existence in our water – everything from antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids, fragrances and artificial sweeteners. These chemicals don’t get filtered out by our sewage treatment plants, and are having dramatic impacts on the evolution of you and me.

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When “the Pill” – an oral contraceptive – was introduced in the 1960’s, it changed society forever. At the time, the women’s movement had just picked up, and the Pill helped empower women as they now had complete control over their menstrual cycles. The Pill gave women the power to turn their cycles on or off, and the freedom to have sex without worrying about a little bundle of unplanned love nine months down the road.

The Pill is a concentration of the hormone estrogen, which although it is great for women and their partners that don’t want to have children, it isn’t great for those who drink it in our water supply that do.

Scientists have found higher levels of estrogen in our drinking water since the introduction of the Pill – just like artificial sweeteners, current water filtration technologies can’t catch this chemical.

These scientists have found “intersex” animals living around our water habitats – male alligators with undersized penises, male fish and birds with female traits – such as the ability to produce eggs. (Though they produce fewer eggs than regular females.)

Although there are other chemicals leaking into our drinking water, estrogen has been targeted as the key contributor to the decline in wild salmon in the northern Pacific ocean.

The Pill is used by over 100 million women globally for birth control, and other health related reasons. It is one of the most common drugs found anywhere in the world.

The Pill’s effects aren’t isolated to the muddy shores along swamps and riverbanks. As with most things that happen in nature, they happen to us too.

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A recent study found in France, the sperm concentration of men decreased by nearly one-third from 1989 to 2005. Similar studies all over the world have found that on average, higher levels of estrogen have lowered the sperm counts in one in five men enough to adversely affect reproduction.

Although both men and women have estrogen naturally occurring in our bodies, artificially increasing those levels by consuming them in our drinking water has negative impacts on humanity.

From lower birth rates, to dropping male populations, to actual changes in our evolutionary tract, which could make us incapable of bearing children at all – which would essentially wipe-out the human race – the impact of what we consume, and in turn pass into our drinking water is affecting us all.