Health

In the Arctic, Chemicals Disrupt Gender Balance

| Wed Sep. 12, 2007 11:05 AM PDT

We already knew that our greenhouse gases were causing problems for the Inuit. Now, we find out that some other little "presents" we've given the Arctic Circle—chemicals from our electronics—are wreaking havoc, too.

In many Inuit communities these days, twice as many girls as boys are born. Scientists recently traced the trend to a buildup of chemicals present in common electronic devices (like televisions and computers). When the chemicals enter the bloodstream of a pregnant woman, they can, scientists believe, act like hormones, causing a fetus to undergo a sex change in the earliest stages of development.

This is not a good thing. In one community in Greenland, only baby girls were born during the course of the study. And if that's not alarming enough, consider the wider implications:

The sex balance of the human race - historically a slight excess of boys over girls - has recently begun to change. A paper published in the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences earlier this year said that in Japan and the US there were 250,000 boys fewer than would have been expected had the sex ratio existing in 1970 remained unchanged. The paper was unable to pin down a cause for the new excess of girls over boys.

This does not bode well for humanity. Not to mention lines for the ladies' room.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.