Birth Control is Green!

By Kirsten Moore, Executive Director of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP). Originally published on April 20, 2012, on

Youíre always thinking about what you can do to help the planet. But then an article blaming your birth control pill for a plethora of environmental woes, from intersex fish to male prostate cancer, shows up in your Twitter feed, causing you to reconsider your contraceptive of choice.

We applaud anyone who wants to use an eco-filter when deciding on a contraceptive method. But before you ditch your pill, make sure you have the facts right. And remember: Any birth control is better than no birth control when it comes to helping the planet.

First, the facts:

The notion of unsuspecting Americans drinking water filled with birth control hormones may get headlinesóbut thanks to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, we know it doesnít accurately describe the state of the science.

The study debunks the myth that birth control pills (and other estrogen-based hormonal contraceptives like the patch and the ring) are a major contributor to the presence of estrogenic compounds in waterways and concludes that EE2, the active ingredient in birth control pills, is minimal or nonexistent in drinking water.

It makes more sense to focus on agricultural and industrial waste. The volume of endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) from livestock alone should cause pause: the total yearly volume of veterinary estrogens is more than five times that of oral contraceptives. In addition, estrogenic compounds are found in common herbicides, like Atrazine and Roundup, as well as in common industrial chemicals, like the plastic additive bisphenol-A (BPA).

A word of caution: it can be tricky to compare the impact of different EDCs since some are more potent than others. For example, industrial chemicals have lower potency than EE2, but they are often present in much higher volume. Surfactants, a type of chemical used in detergent and other products, are one of the most frequently detected EDCs in surface water. But most people arenít giving up on laundry, now are they?

Now, the action:

While birth control pills aren’t to blame for all the EDCs in our environment, that doesnít mean EDCs in the environment arenít a problem. EDCs have been linked to early puberty, infertility, and developmental defects. Scientific research strongly suggests that reducing EDC exposure is critical to protecting reproductive health. Unfortunately, current laws arenít doing enough to keep estrogenic chemicals of all kinds out of the environment. So instead of ditching your pills or whatever birth control method you use, make a difference by buying organic when you can (to reduce the use of synthetic crop fertilizers) and telling Congress to support the Safe Chemicals Act.

And if youíre a purist and want only the greenest contraceptive, consider the copper IUD. Itís hormone-free, long lasting (up to a decade, epitomizing the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra), made from small amounts of cheap, plentiful metal (copper), and 99 percent effective. The copper IUD is a great birth control optionóbut if it doesnít seem like a fit for you, choose another method rather than going without. When it comes to having sex, the greenest thing you can do is use birth control.

Birth Control & Heart Attacks & Strokes — Oh My!
The Pill’s Impact on the Planet After 50 Years
What Is An IUD?


Sherry Kohn
Sherry K1 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin3 years ago

great to know

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

Of course it is, human overpopulation is the biggest problem for us and the planet!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

Overpopulation is one of the biggest threats to the Earth, so birth control is necessary.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

I've heard that families that use the 'rhythm' method usually end up having four children.

Richard B.
Richard B.5 years ago

For married couples with serious need to restrict family size, there are modern, effective "greener" NFP alternatives like Billings or Sympto-thermal method (not the same as “Rhythm” method) that strengthen marriages and avoid numerous side effects of the pill, which has been labeled a Type I carcinogen by World Health Org. Also, IUD acts as an abortifacient. The overpopulation concern has already been debunked ( if you project out beyond year 2040 – most nations (esp. Europe, Russia, Japan) already have birth rates BELOW replacement rate, which means those societies will not be able to sustain themselves through 22nd century, if current anti-child mindsets persist.

Elaya Raja
Elaya Raja5 years ago

Thank you

Barb Hansen
Ba H5 years ago

i agree contraception is a must, but not at the expense of the rest of us. i don't want toxins that don't break down or can't be filtered out left in my drinking water. big pharmaceutical companies should be able to design a pill that would break down before it leaves a woman's body.

Angie B.
Angela B5 years ago

I like my birth control to be effective; then, I worry about the greener aspects of it. I used an IUD after my 2nd child and got such a bad infection, I was told I might not be able to carry another baby. I have 7 now so it worked out ok but when discussing birth control methods over the years with my kids, I steer them away from the IUD.