Are Boys Disappearing Because of Gender Bender Chemicals?


Creative Commons

"Something is happening to today's boys and men: Fewer are being born compared with girls, they're having more trouble in school, virility and fertility are down and testicular cancer rates are up. Now, scientists say these 'fragile males' may be more vulnerable than females to pollutants, affecting their development as early as the womb."

Martin Mittelstaedt of the Globe and Mail writes about how "Researchers tracking childhood behavioural disorders, sperm counts, testicular cancer and even the shrinking size of male gonads are convinced that something is amiss. The University of Pittsburgh's Devra Davis, in a study issued last year, found that the U.S. and Japan combined had a staggering tally of 262,000 "missing boys" from 1970 to about 2000 because of a decline in the sex ratio at birth. Although it could be a statistical anomaly, she says the figure is "very worrisome."

Some think it might be due to endocrine disruptors in the environment. He lists "science's top five worries over the fate of the human male."
Not as many boys as there used to be....
1. Lost boys

Studies on births from the U.S., Japan, and Canada have found a drop in the percentage of boys born compared with girls. The reason isn't known.

2. Declining harvest

Men in farm country can be half as prolific when it comes to making sperm as their city counterparts, raising the possibility that pesticides undermine male fertility.

3. Downsizing

It's disputed by chemical companies, but some researchers say they have found an everyday plastic compound - phthalates - that feminizes baby boys, causing penises and other reproductive organs to be smaller.

4. Hormones not so raging

If you're a middle-aged man, you're likely to be less virile than your father because you make less testosterone. In recent decades, the decline has averaged about 1 per cent a year. If it continues over another generation or two, the consequences could be dire.

5. Equipment failure

Rates of testicular cancer, hypospadias and other genital abnormalities have soared over recent decades, rising by more than 50 per cent each.

Mittelstaedt then lists the four chemicals that are causing the biggest concern:
-Bisphenol A
-Phthalates
-Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)

More in the Globe and Mail
TreeHugger on Gender Benders and Phthalates
President Bush Says "Baby, Get That Phthalate-Filled Building Block Out Of Your Mouth!"
Ask Treehugger: What Is An Endocrine Distruptor?
Congress Will Do USEPA's Job: Reduce Childhood Exposure to Phthalates in Toys

Tags: Babies | Cancer | Chemicals | Plastics

Best of TreeHugger