May 14, 2009

Chemicals May “˜Feminize’ Boys In The Womb

A new report has linked the use of chemicals found in food, cosmetics and cleaning products to an increased risk of birth defects, testicular cancer and infertility among unborn boys.

Professor Richard Sharpe, a reproductive biologist of the Medical Research Council said the chemicals work to "feminize" male infants while still in the womb. The chemicals can block the male sex hormone testosterone, and even mimic the female hormone estrogen.

Researchers point to birth defects seen on the penis, rising rates of testicular cancer and decreasing sperm counts as evidence that the cocktail of chemicals is harming unborn males. These symptoms are known as Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome, which is caused by a disruption of testosterone in boys.

Professor Sharpe used animal studies to reveal that testosterone-disrupting chemicals can cause TDS-like disorders. Also, he referred to other reports of chemical pollutants resulting in de-masculinisation in wildlife.

Although there is far less damning evidence to be found in humans, the case is beginning to build.

"You can't do anything about chemicals in the environment but you can control what you expose a baby to through your lifestyle choices," Sharpe told the Daily Mail.

"Because we don't know the complete list of chemicals that may be hormone disrupters, and we don't know how they interact, we can't point a finger at an individual chemical.

"The message is to avoid them, just as you should avoid alcohol and drugs."

His study showed that some chemicals that were harmless by themselves became harmful when combined with others.

"Chemicals that have been shown to act together to affect male reproductive health should have their risks assessed together," Elizabeth Salter Green, CHEM Trust director, told BBC Health.

"Currently that is not the case, and unfortunately chemicals are looked at on an individual basis. "

"Therefore, government assurances that exposures are too low to have any effect just do not hold water because regulators do not take into account the additive actions of hormone disrupting chemicals."

"It is high time that public health policy is based on good science and that regulatory authorities have health protection, rather than industry protection, uppermost in mind."

Seven percent of boys in the UK are born with partially descended testes and seven in 1,000 are born with deformations on the penis. Additionally, the rate of testicular cancer among men in their 20s and 30s has been doubling every 25 years, said researchers.


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CHEM Trust

Medical Research Council