Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Reproductive Threats to Australia’s Marsupials


Credit: davemhuntphoto/Adobe

By Andrew Pask

Chemicals used in agriculture, industry and household goods can have effects on marsupial fertility as profound as sex reversal.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Synthetic and naturally occurring chemicals released into the environment can have disastrous effects on reproduction, and are becoming a matter of global concern. These environmental endocrine disruptors (EEDs) have major impacts on sexual development in humans as well as populations of wild animals.

EEDs have been identified in many everyday items, including plastic bottles and food containers, canned foods, fresh foods, detergents, toys, cosmetics and pesticides. Some EED compounds naturally occur in introduced plant species such as soya and subterranean clover. Many of these compounds are commonly used in agriculture, suburban environments and in the home.

EED levels in the Australian environment are on the rise, and in many instances exceed levels known to have devastating effects on animal populations in the USA and Europe. EED levels are especially high in areas surrounding intensive livestock operations, in waterways surrounding wastewater treatment plants, paper mills and in agricultural areas.

With reduced rainfall and extended drought conditions becoming a regular event over much of Australia, these toxic chemicals can become highly concentrated in catchments, posing a significant risk to many native species dependent on such resources.

It is now widely accepted that many diseases and developmental disorders observed in mammals are...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.