It's true. Forbes.com contibutor Tim Worstall, who himself admits that the idea sounds "entirely absurd," argues in a recent column that because of the pollutive effects of contraceptive pills, women should be charged a tax of £1,000, or $1,500, to help fund upgraded sewage treatment systems.
The basic problem is that the hormones in the pill itself, the hormones which produce the desired contraceptive effect, then end up in the sewage system as part of the normal function of kidneys and bladders in human beings. Those hormones are then not captured by the standard sewage treatments and end up being released into the fresh water of the area. Where they are believed to cause sex changes in fish.
The hormone in question is called ethinyl estradiol (EE2) and is the main active ingredient in birth control pills, according to the Guardian. The hormone causes fish to develop both male and female traits, therefore inhibiting population growth.
It would cost the EU £30 billion, or more than $46 billion, to remove the hormone from rivers, streams and other drinking supplies in England and Wales alone, the Guardian reports.
It's not just the UK that's being polluted by the contraceptive pills. According to a story that ran in the Guardian in 2010, more than 80 percent of male bass fish in Washington D.C.'s Potomac River exhibit female traits, likely the result of drugs and chemicals deposited in the water. A 2009 report found that one third of the fish tested at 111 sites across the U.S. were "intersex," or exhibited both male and female traits.
Worstall dismisses the idea of making pharmaceutical companies pay for the mess their products create, saying that such a move could cause women to have to pay more for contraception, to the tune of £1,000 per year.
"It is their [women's] choice to use the pill," Worstall writes. "However, their choice of method of doing so imposes costs on the rest of us, upon the society at large."
Worstall's point of view has caused quite a raucous across the blogosphere.
Jezebel's Cassie Murdoch writes:
Fingers crossed that we all keep in mind that contraception is a society-wide issue, not a women's issue. If men want us to take the pill so they can sex us up without worrying about polluting the world through overpopulation, then they should also share the burden of paying to protect the environment from our resultant toxic pee.