Man-Made Chemicals Reduce Animals’ Masculinity

red-deer-stag.jpgThis week, the British organization CHEM Trust, which is financially supported by WWF-UK and Greenpeace, published a report (.pdf) reviewing scientific literature on the reproductive health of wildlife in contact with chemical pollutants. These pollutants include the usual suspects: phthalates, bisphenol A, PCBs, DDT, atrazine, etc. All of these chemicals have been covered extensively by Mother Jones, such as in the current issue’s “Let’s Go Europe,” about European chemical regulations.

In a press release, the report’s author, Gwynne Lyons, commented that, “Man-made chemicals are clearly damaging the basic male tool-kit.” The report concludes:

Some of the most prevalent effects reported in male wildlife, which are associated with pollutants, are related to genital disruption (GD). GD includes an array of manifestations. Notable amongst these are: intersex features (such as egg tissue in the testes of the male); small phallus; small testes; undescended testes or other obvious structural defects of the male reproductive tract; or ambiguous genitals.

And the human implications?

Taken together, the effects seen in wildlife should raise
concerns for contaminant induced genital disruption in human male
infants. Indeed a condition called testicular dysgenesis syndrome,
including birth defects of the penis of baby boys, cryptorchidism
(undescended testes), reduced sperm production and testicular cancer,
has been suggested, because there is evidence to indicate that these
effects may be interlinked in causation. Scientists have also noted
that the rapid pace of the increase of human male reproductive
disorders indicates an environmental cause as do studies following baby
boys born to immigrants who take on the same risk for testicular
cancer, as the offspring of residents born in that country.

[Update: Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson points out that male Polar Bears have been hit especially hard by pollution-related “genital disruption”—their penises are shrinking.]

Photo used under Creative Commons license.