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Biotech Science

Environmental Chemicals Are Feminizing Boys 614

Posted by kdawson
from the bending-toward-distaff dept.
pickens writes "Denmark has unveiled official research showing that two-year-old children are at risk from a bewildering array of gender-bending chemicals in such everyday items as waterproof clothes, rubber boots, bed linen, food, sunscreen lotion, and moisturizing cream. A picture is emerging of ubiquitous chemical contamination driving down sperm counts and feminizing male children all over the developed world. Research at Rotterdam's Erasmus University found that boys whose mothers were exposed to PCBs and dioxins were more likely to play with dolls and tea sets and dress up in female clothes. 'The amounts that two-year-olds absorb from the [preservatives] parabens propylparaben and butylparaben can constitute a risk for oestrogen-like disruptions of the endocrine system,' says the report. The contamination may also offer a clue to a mysterious shift in the sex of babies. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls: it is thought to be nature's way of making up for the fact that men were more likely to be killed hunting or in conflict. But the proportion of females is rising. 'Both the public and wildlife are inadequately protected from harm, as regulation is based on looking at exposure to each substance in isolation, and yet it is now proven beyond doubt that hormone disrupting chemicals can act together to cause effects even when each by itself would not,' says Gwynne Lyons, director of Chem Trust."
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Environmental Chemicals Are Feminizing Boys

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  • Solution (Score:5, Funny)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:16AM (#30105148) Homepage
    All Danish mothers should be required by law to watch 2 hours of Chuck Norris per day during pregnancy.
  • (s)he (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:17AM (#30105156)

    "The contamination may also offer a clue to a mysterious shift in the sex of babies. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls: it is thought to be nature's way of making up for the fact that men were more likely to be killed hunting or in conflict. But the proportion of females is rising."

    And how are these chemicals affecting animal population ratios?

  • Not Dolls!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:20AM (#30105170)

    For the last time, they aren't dolls, they're action figures!!

  • Yeah it has nothing to do with forcing boys to engage in more timid play, impressing upon them that when they grow older they'll be expected to do their share of the child rearing, presenting them with effeminate roll models, balking at allowing them to take risks or play "politically incorrect" games, keeping them away from violence and agression more than any previous generation, or putting them in female clothing for a giggle. Nothing to do with that at all. It's the chemicals!

    GIMME A BREAK.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      they'll be expected to do their share of the child rearing

      What? The nerve! Everyone knows fathers are supposed to ignore their children at all times, even if they're on fire.

    • by jcupitt65 (68879) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:31AM (#30105236)

      Social factors could perhaps have a role, but there's no evidence for it, as far as I know.

      There is however a lot of evidence that environmental oestrogens have an effect on development, and much of this evidence is nicely summarised in the linked article.

      • by pwizard2 (920421)

        That could very well be true. Several years ago I heard stories about how estrogen-like chemicals could theoretically leach out of plastic bottled water containers under certain conditions. I would believe this because I've left bottles of water in the sun on various occasions and the water has had a slightly strange taste afterward. Who knows what was in there?

        Personally, I wish they would start using glass containers again for drinks. There's nothing to hurt you there. (plus we wouldn't need to use petro

      • by gtall (79522) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @12:34PM (#30106262)

        Someone above wondered on the effect environmental oestrogens had on animals. In the Potomoc river (runs by Washington D.C) fish are observed to have transgender traits over and above any natural underlying statistic signal and it has been shown to be result of environmental oestrogens. So it does occur.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by QuoteMstr (55051)

      I usually try to be thoughtful in my posts, but after the above, all I can muster is:

      What the fuck is wrong with you?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by buddyglass (925859)
      I can see those things socializing certain behaviors. I can't see them lowering male sperm count, which afaik has been observed over time.
  • Denmark? (Score:3, Informative)

    by anomnomnomymous (1321267) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:22AM (#30105188)
    I assume they mean the Netherlands, since the Rotterdam Erasmus University is in the Netherlands.
  • by JimboFBX (1097277) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:25AM (#30105210)
    I don't understand how hormones will dictate that you will enjoy dolls and tea sets and cross dress. Aren't all those things... cultural...?
    • by StackedCrooked (1204878) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:27AM (#30105218)
      Girls prefer to play with dolls, and boys prefer to play with toy cars, guns etc.. This is genetic, not cultural.
      • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:29AM (#30105232) Homepage
        So you're saying humans evolved to play with things that didn't exist when we became humans?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:35AM (#30105258)

          So you're saying humans evolved to play with things that didn't exist when we became humans?

          No, toys evolved to fit gender preferences.

          The toy preference is also observed in apes: female chimps prefer dolls, male chimps prefer cars.

      • by emilper (826945) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:41AM (#30105716)

        Of course, genetic information evolved over the last two million years can help identify dolls dressed in red as "feminine" and dolls dressed in green and wearing a hard hat as "masculine" ... except for 3000 years red was the "male warrior" color and only during the last 100 years were the "camo" colors fashionable in the army ... and the same genes are helping young children identify plastic tanks or knifes as "male toys" while plastic beds, plastic baby carriages and plastic table sets are identified (due to genes, hormone concentrations or something else of physiological origin) as "female toys".

         

    • by p0rnographer (1051212) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:27AM (#30105226)
      For the last time, they aren't dolls, they're action figures!!
    • It could be both. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pavon (30274)

      One of the main reasons that we participate in cultural activities is to fit in with the group. If chemical-induced hormones made boys more likely to associate/relate with girls then they would be more likely to participate in girl activities - however culture defines them.

      That said, it does seem like a bit of a leap to me - too many factors to control for to get meaningful results. I'd be more convinced by separate studies that showed that exposure to certain chemicals increased certain hormone levels, and

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by digitig (1056110)
      It probably has a cultural element, but there seems to be a biological element too. Female babies are more likely to fixate on faces, male babies more likely to fixate on mechanical mobiles, from pretty much the first time they open their eyes. Women's linguistic skills vary with the menstrual cycle, and the linguistic skills of pre-op transexuals receiving hormone treatment tend to shift in the direction associated with the intended change. Men who have been given certain a female hormone have been found t
  • by simoncpu was here (1601629) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:27AM (#30105224)
    Proportion of females is rising. This is good news.
    Research shows that men who have bad hygiene are more masculine than their clean-shaven brethren. Again, fellow Slashdotters, this is good news.
  • Transsexualism (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:37AM (#30105274)

    One theory about why transsexualism occurs has been that it is a hormone induced neurological change that occurs early in development. While science is far from concluded on weather this is the case, I can from personal experience state that it is not a fun place to be. If there's even a small chance that environmental toxins is contributing to its prevalence then this is a very serious matter and definitely justifies a careful approach on restricting the use of chemicals that can influence gender development.

    To give a slight idea of how strong an effect these things can have on a persons general wellbeing, a Dutch study found 20% of female to male transsexuals had attempted suicide prior to initiating hormone treatment. In comparison the figures following treatment with androgens were just a few percent. Now try to imagine what the effects might be when you expose an entire population to a diffuse cocktail of chemicals that interfere with gender development and you should start feeling a bit uncomfortable about the situation...

  • I get it!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by ectotherm (842918) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:40AM (#30105292)
    We now have an explanation for the "Metrosexual" trend...
  • While it's easy to laugh at the "positive" aspects of being one of very few men -- it should be noted on a purely biological level that far fewer than 50% (or even 10%) men are needed to carry on the species.

  • and yet it is now proven beyond doubt that hormone disrupting chemicals can act together to cause effects even when each by itself would not

    This plot sounds awfully familiar. Are they taking their research from Tim Burton's "Batman" movie?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:10AM (#30105510)

    This article does not make sense.

    Biological gender (dictated by the presence of an Y vs. X chromosome) is irrevocably determined at the moment a spermium merges with an egg, excluding very rare cases of extra chromosomes etc. External pollution by endocrine disruptor chemicals plays no role in this.

    Exhibition of female traits in biological males is a completely different story, and there is increasing evidence that this may be linked to certain classes of chemicals.

    However, I am not aware of any studies which link these chemicals to decreased viability of Y-sperm, which could be a reason for the decline of male births. The number of biological males feminized to a degree that they pass and spend their lifes as females, and is however far too low to account for this change.

    • by snowgirl (978879) * on Sunday November 15, 2009 @04:02PM (#30108252) Journal

      This article does not make sense.

      Biological gender (dictated by the presence of an Y vs. X chromosome) is irrevocably determined at the moment a spermium merges with an egg, excluding very rare cases of extra chromosomes etc. External pollution by endocrine disruptor chemicals plays no role in this.

      Exhibition of female traits in biological males is a completely different story, and there is increasing evidence that this may be linked to certain classes of chemicals.

      However, I am not aware of any studies which link these chemicals to decreased viability of Y-sperm, which could be a reason for the decline of male births. The number of biological males feminized to a degree that they pass and spend their lifes as females, and is however far too low to account for this change.

      Ah... such a simple world you live in. One baby has a Y, and it's male, and the other has an X, and it's female.

      Actually, it's the SRY (sex determining gene) on the Y chromosome that initiates... I said INITIATES sexual distinction in males. Without this gene, the germ cell line "stripe" turns into ovaries. If there is a mutation in this gene, you will get an XY female with ovaries. If this gene is present and there are no mutations in this gene, then the germ cell line "stripe" becomes testicles.

      The testicles produce androgen. Androgen drives the external development of the genitalia. If there is insufficient androgens, or insufficient response to androgens then the scrotalabial folds become labia, and the clitoris/penis precursor becomes a clitoris. If there are sufficient androgens, and response, the scrotalabial folds fuse into a scrotum, and the clitoris/penis precursor becomes a penis. The development of the external genitalia can also vary anywhere along a continuum between the two.

      Separately, the testicles produce Anti-muellerian hormones, which prevent the development of the muellerian ducts, namely, the upper vagina, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. If there is insufficient AMH, or insufficient response, the fetus will develop such organs regardless of the genetic makeup of the child, regardless of the external appearance of the genitalia. YES, there are MEN with UTERUSES, if they're AMH resistant.

      Now... notice that none of this depends upon estrogen levels. That's because the mother floods the bodies of all children with estrogens. However, it's heavily dependent upon hormones that are produced in the testicles. There a number of chemicals that block androgens, and these result in birth defects, which is why you get in ads for things like Rogaine "pregnant women should never even TOUCH these pills."

      There a hojillion different ways to define "biological sex" and none of them are conclusive, and none of them are guaranteed. There are women with XY, and men with XX (and they were born that way, and assigned their sex by doctors), there are women with high androgen levels (5-alpha-reductase deficiency) and men with low androgen levels, there are women with testicles, and men with ovaries, there are women without uteruses, and men with uteruses. The only thing left to define men from women biologically, is external genitalia... and that can be surgically altered.

      So, seriously... you don't know anything... I hope this short lesson on sexual distinction in humans helps you out.

  • Torchwood knew (Score:3, Insightful)

    by earlymon (1116185) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:33AM (#30105656) Homepage Journal

    First episode (AFAIR), Captain Jack Harkness, tasting the estrogen in the rain - and cursing this bloody planet for its mismanagement of chemical waste.

  • China Balance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:36AM (#30105680)
    This will be interesting in how it plays out with the excess number of males in China because of the 'one child policy'. If the gender transition occurs in China because of chemical pollution, and becomes more accepted, it could stave off world war three. If it doesn't, the larger number of available females in other countries could encourage emigration or war. Hopefully the pollution gets stopped before any of these longer term effects have a chance.
  • by VoidEngineer (633446) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:39AM (#30105696)
    These reports come out every few years (re: DDT, et al.), and while they're not strictly incorrect, they tend to look at a very incomplete picture of what is going on. To be perfectly blunt, there's sexism going on in that these reports focus on just the environmental impact of chemicals on boys, and don't consider the larger picture of chemical impact on children in general.

    Anyhow, if you take a look at the steroidgenesis diagram, you'll notice that testosterone is a precursor of oestrogen by way of aromatase:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steroidogenesis.svg [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatase [wikipedia.org]

    Now, for those people who remember their organic chemistry and stoichiometry, rates of conversion reactions are increased with catalysts, and decreased with modulators. So, while aromatase will increase the rate at which testosterone converts into estrogen, an aromatase inhibitor will decrease conversion of testosterone.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aromatase_Inhibitor [wikipedia.org]

    And it turns out that Aromatase Inhibitors are naturally occurring:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B8JGN-4TWSRR1-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1093611464&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=2bb4c9b03794595de88508b47078c134 [sciencedirect.com]

    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.fieldmuseum.org/research_collections/pritzker_lab/pritzker/people/people_images/stilbocarpapolaris.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.fieldmuseum.org/research_collections/pritzker_lab/pritzker/people/alumni_mitchell.html&usg=__Xc_RyM3WV_KmlfwEp0KCwul_DAk=&h=137&w=200&sz=9&hl=en&start=7&um=1&tbnid=jlXt6kpeBMYsJM:&tbnh=71&tbnw=104&prev=/images%3Fq%3DBrassaiopsis%2Bglomerulata%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1 [google.com]

    And there's a growing list of known aromatase inhibitors:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exemestane [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anastrozole [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letrozole [wikipedia.org]


    So, simply put... what about the environmental chemicals that are masculinizing girls? Is it really just a matter of plastics feminizing boys? Or does it go both ways? Is it a matter of environmental toxicity in general?

    Lastly, I'd also bring up the question whether feminization of boys is primarily caused by environmental chemicals, or if it's driven be completely different factors, such as 1) a cultural response to civil rights access for women, 2) decreased opportunities for war caused by nuclear detante, or 3) need for peaceful co-existance due to worldwide population increases a
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hitmark (640295)

      i suspect its been this way since hormones got discovered.

      ever since, there have a been something of a divide between chemists and psychologists, as each want to be the authority on the behavior of man.

      thing is tho that the body is a feedback loop, with more chemicals produced depending on all sorts of input, resulting in new output that again produce inputs. The results of this loop is then stored in dna, dna that gets passed on and mixed with other dna.

      the big trick is that non-chemical input can result i

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @11:28AM (#30105796)

    IMHO, the media is mostly to blame for this. Next time you're bored, start counting how many commercials and sitcoms on TV (and even movies) portray the husband/boyfriend as a complete neanderthal moron and the wife/girlfriend as a level-headed rocket scientist. And can anyone remember when TLC had stuff worth watching? Now you are told what not to wear, that gay men know what women want in a straight guy, that it's okay to have eight or more ankle-biters and yet still have a completely dysfunctional family.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The media is just reflecting societal changes due largely to the increased status of women. As females become more active, men shift to a more passive role, until everyone is equally metro-sexual. Socialized Europe is seen as effeminate partly for this reason.
  • by SEE (7681) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @04:46PM (#30108698) Homepage

    The primary and most powerful source of feminizing chemicals in our water is the vast quantities dumped into our water supply in the urine of women on the birth control pill. Anyone who considers feminizing chemicals a real problem (instead of using it as an excuse to go after industry) would be seeking, first and foremost, to ban the birth control pill.

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