A new study found the chemical BPA can disrupt the mating behavior of fish. BPA is used to harden plastic and has already been linked to reproductive problems in animals.
The study led by Jessica Ward a researcher at the University of Minnesota, found that fish exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A were more likely to show interest in mating with fish of a different species.
Ward said the study also found that male fish exposed to BPA had less vibrant colors. But the difference in color does not explain why the fish exposed to BPA spent more time with other fish species, she said.
"Exposure to these chemicals can perhaps just make individuals more permissive, so it's not that they are responding directly to one of these physical changes, but they're becoming more permissive of a broader range of physical traits," Ward said.
That permissiveness could reduce native fish populations and allow invasive species to spread, Ward said. A long-term change in mating behaviors could harm native fish populations and allow invasive species to flourish. The study was published in the June issue of the journal Evolutionary Applications.
"It certainly has the potential to disrupt existing communities and community structure," Ward said. "If you cause the declines of one species or multiple species, that's going to change feeding regimes and the way the community interacts, so it could be very problematic."
BPA has also been detected in the nation's waterways. Ward says more studies are needed to understand BPA's long-term impact on waterways.