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Mark LeChevallier agrees with Dr. Lester Ruppersberger, a pro-life obstetrician and gynecologist, that natural family planning is safe, healthy and effective. But, he would add one more characteristic: It's environmentally responsible.
LeChevallier is director of innovation and environmental stewardship at American Water, the largest water and wastewater provider in North America. Along with his wife, he also has been a certified instructor of natural family planning for the past 25 years.
In separate talks July 26, 2008 to a national conference in Cherry Hill, LeChevallier and Ruppersberger approached the topic of natural family planning from very different directions but reached similarly positive conclusions.
The July 25-27, 2008 conference brought together leaders from diocesan pro-life, family life and social justice offices around the country.
Ruppersberger's talk on "Scientific Advances in Fertility Management" touted the benefits he has seen for his patients and himself since he switched to an NFP-only medical practice in 1999.
LeChavevallier shared the podium with Roxana Barillas, a domestic policy adviser at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for a discussion on "Toxins, the Environment and the Child in the Womb." He spoke about the drastic effects that discarded contraceptive medicines and devices have been having on the nation's water and animals, especially fish.
In a talk with the daunting title of "Endocrine Disruptions: Chemical Contraceptives in Sewage Effluents," LeChavallier explained that like secondhand smoke, " secondhand estrogens are being released into the environment," to devastating effect on fish, panthers, alligators and other wildlife.
He said the media "did a little bit of a disservice" to the American public when they reported earlier this year that the levels of contaminants found in drinking water could seriously harm humans.
For example, "you would have to drink 100 million gallons to get the dose found in one Tylenol,' he said.
But "the synthetic estrogen used in birth control pills can wreak havoc on the sex lives of fish," LeChevallier said, citing reduced sexual organ size in male fish, masculinized female fish and other sex-related changes.
Because the synthetic estrogen is not absorbed well into the body, much of the drug is released into the environment through women's urine, he said. In addition, used contraceptive rings and patches are having a further polluting effect, he said.
Noting that in Europe, drug manufacturers are required to provide a bag for disposal or return of used contraceptive devices, LeChevallier recommended that the U.S. adopt the same policy.
He said touting the environmental benefits of natural family planning "can be a new way to evangelize youths" and attract them to the Church-approved method of postponing pregnancy.