A fifth of male fish are now transgender because of chemicals from the contraceptive pill being flushed down household drains, a study by has suggested.

Male river fish are displaying feminised traits and even producing eggs, the study found. Some have reduced sperm quality and display less aggressive and competitive behaviour, which makes them less likely to breed successfully.

The chemicals causing these effects include ingredients in the contraceptive pill, by-products of cleaning agents, plastics and cosmetics, according to the findings.

Professor Charles Tyler, of the University of Exeter, is to present his findings in a key-note lecture at a symposium this week. He will explain that the offspring of such “transgender” or “intersex” fish can also be more sensitive to the effects of these chemicals in subsequent exposures.

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