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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Girls, Bacteria, Hygiene And Health

There is another aspect to this article which comes to mind. It is not just being too clean kills the needed bacteria. It is what is done to and what girls may use more of that will be part of the problem.

Today The Telegraph had an article about a young girl developing rickets as a result of overuse of sun screen. What could be causing the increase in asthma and other respiratory conditions?

Gender and Hygiene: Could Cleanliness Be Hurting Girls?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2011) —

Little girls growing up in western society are expected to be neat and tidy -- "all ribbon and curls", and one researcher who studies science and gender differences thinks that emphasis may contribute to higher rates of certain diseases in adult women.

The link between increased hygiene and sanitation and higher rates of asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders is known as the "hygiene hypothesis" and the link is well-documented. Yet the role of gender is rarely explored as part of this phenomenon.

Oregon State University philosopher Sharyn Clough thinks researchers need to dig deeper. In her new study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, she points out that women have higher rates of allergies and asthma, and many autoimmune disorders. However, there is no agreed-upon explanation for these patterns. Clough offers a new explanation.

Clough documents a variety of sociological and anthropological research showing that our society socializes young girls differently from young boys. In particular, she notes, girls are generally kept from getting dirty compared to boys.

"Girls tend to be dressed more in clothing that is not supposed to get dirty, girls tend to play indoors more than boys, and girl's playtime is more often supervised by parents," said Clough, adding that this is likely to result in girls staying cleaner.

"There is a significant difference in the types and amounts of germs that girls and boys are exposed to, and this might explain some of the health differences we find between women and men."

However, that doesn't mean that parents should let their daughters go out into the back yard and eat dirt, Clough points out.

"What I am proposing is new ways of looking at old studies," she said. "The hygiene hypothesis is well-supported, but what I am hoping is that the epidemiologists and clinicians go back and examine their data through the lens of gender."

The "hygiene hypothesis" links the recent rise in incidence of asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, with particular geographical and environmental locations, in particular urban, industrialized nations.

Many scholarly studies have noted that as countries become more industrial and urban, rates of these diseases rise. For instance, the rate of Crohn's disease is on the rise in India as sanitation improves and industrialization increases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that asthma prevalence is higher among females (8.9 percent compared to 6.5 percent in males) and that women are more likely to die from asthma. The National Institutes of Health statistics show that autoimmune diseases strike women three times more than men.

A report by the Task Force on Gender, Multiple Sclerosis, and Autoimmunity shows that among people with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, the female to male ratio is between 2:1 and 3:1. With the disease lupus, nine times as many women are affected as men.

Clough is a philosopher of science and epistemology, with a particular focus on feminist theory and gender differences. The focus of her work is to study scientific research and look for the implicit or hidden assumptions that guide that research.

She believes the link between hygiene, gender and disease is not just a fluke.

"We are just now beginning to learn about the complex relationship between bacteria and health," she said. "More than 90 percent of the cells in our body are microbial rather than human. It would seem that we have co-evolved with bacteria. We need to explore this relationship more, and not just in terms of eating 'pro-biotic' yogurt."

That's why Clough does not recommend that parents feed their daughters spoonfuls of dirt. Just one gram of ordinary uncontaminated soil contains 10 billion microbial cells, so the effects of ingesting dirt are unknown.

"We obviously do not yet know enough to differentiate between helpful and harmful bacteria," she said.

However, Clough said she can easily join in the chorus of voices of health experts who say that more outdoor time for kids is good -- even if that means the kids get a little dirty.

"Getting everyone, both boys and girls, from an early age to be outdoors as much as possible is something I can get behind," she said.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Coshing The Kids

In the press today was a mention of the number of youngsters in UK schools who are being prescribed Ritalin to quieten them down and hopefully to contain the problems of their behaviour in school and the community.

The figure given was 650,000. This does seem to be far too high a proportion and clearly something somewhere is going badly wrong. Ritalin, along with other drugs is more or less a chemical cosh. We do not know how many other substances are being used.

Inevitably, there are many possibilities. Upbringing, family insecurity, the media, too much TV or computing and too little activity are amongst them. Perhaps there has been a general lack of essential support or training for many children in the last couple of decades or so.

On argument is that as the “Baby Boomers” went easier on their kids, so they in turn went even more easy on theirs so we now have a lot of little monsters running about. There are times when this is what I feel.

There are people who ask questions of diet. The huge consumption of drinks and foods with high levels of sugars, caffeine and “carbo” along with high “carbo” foods in abundance could well be a contributory cause. Many of these in turn may have sweeteners and fillers packing high strength and a stimulant effect.

But there is very little comment on other substances. The human body and brain are complex systems that need a chemically stable basis on which to function well. In recent decades we have been adding things to the diet and environment which create major challenges to those systems.

There has been a good deal of attention given to agricultural chemical use and to pesticides etc. As well as their other effects because of the complexity it is very difficult to determine whether they might have a contributory role in questions of behaviour, especially in a growing child.

Then again there are the household chemicals. We do know that many can affect the skin and respiration and digestive systems. Added to that is the power and impact of added synthetics designed to affect the sense of smell and brain reactions to the immediate environment.

In most homes now there is a large collection of bathroom, personal, kitchen, washing, air treatment and other products all of which will have impacts and effects and are designed to.

This is a very great deal for the human body to cope with. Perhaps a person who is fit, active, engaged in occupations and interests that assist human function can cope but this is not the case at present.

So however we bring up the kids, if we are hitting them heavily daily, hourly and every second almost with a heavy chemical cosh then how can we expect them to behave as we wish?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Viscount Simon And Fragrance Asthma

DAILY MAIL – 9 March 2004

Whiff of perfume could kill me

by Amanda Cable Daily Mail

Viscount Simon: asthma attacks can be triggered by smokers in passing cars.

Despite being one of the Deputy Speakers in the House of Lords, I often find myself being reduced to silence. Not pausing for the right words to add gravitas to the latest political debate, but gasping for breath in the grip of an acute asthma attack.

Like five million other people in this country, I suffer from asthma. In my case, allergic reactions to perfumes, tobacco smoke and chemical fumes have forced me to make huge changes to the way I live.

The last time I went to the cinema, for example, was to see Crocodile Dundee in 1986, and I can't remember when I last sat in a crowded restaurant, or took a train or bus
Any of these "normal" activities will expose me to triggers which could set off a potentially fatal attack. Just the slightest whiff of a woman's perfume, some aftershave or someone's cigarette can bring on an attack in 20 seconds, and leave me fighting for breath.

Safe setting in which to work

It's ironic that a job I inherited rather than chose - being a peer in the House of Lords - has provided me with one of the safest settings in which to work. The high ceilings allow air to circulate, and the many corridors mean I can duck and dive my way out of trouble.

But it is still not always enough. Three years ago, I collapsed and needed oxygen simply because a Baroness tried to sit beside me after washing her hair that morning with a perfumed shampoo.

And last October it even caused a sitting of the House to be adjourned - something which normally only happens when a Lord dies during the session.

I was Deputy Speaker that day when a message was handed across the chamber. It was on a piece of faintly perfumed paper - and I inhaled a tiny whiff of the scent.
In an instant, I was gasping for breath, as the bronchioles - the small airways that carry air in and out of the lungs - became inflamed and swollen.

The Duty Whip saw me struggling for breath and announced: "I think Lord Simon is ill." I had to pull myself up and gasp "House adjourned" before being helped out and given oxygen.

Attacks come and go quickly

My attacks aren't typical. They come quickly and they go quickly. Last week, I had seven separate attacks.

The most serious one was as I left a Deputy Speakers' meeting and walked past a room where a peer's guest was enjoying a cigar. I took half a breath before I realised, and the familiar tight feeling in my chest began
I started taking Ventolin through my inhaler - to relax the muscles surrounding the airways, making it easier to breathe - and went straight to the nurses' station for oxygen. It was six hours before I could breathe easily again.

Ironically, the problems which now rule my life didn't start until a serious chest infection nine years ago, not long after I inherited the title from my father.

I became ill with a chest infection in Christmas 1994, and by January 1995 the constant coughing and wheezing hadn't cleared up. My GP quickly diagnosed asthma.

Of the five million people in the UK affected by asthma, around one in ten are adults, but only a third of these cases develop later in life.

The most likely explanation in my case is that my chest infection damaged the cells lining my airways, making them sensitive and inflamed.

When I come into contact with something I am allergic to - a trigger - the muscles around the walls of my airways tighten, the lining becomes inflamed, and sticky mucus or phlegm is produced, sparking an asthma attack.

Triggered by fumes and smoke

Like many sufferers who develop late-onset asthma in their 50s, 60s and 70s, my triggers are cigar smoke, perfumes and chemical fumes.

I take five daily medications to stabilise my condition - a combination of drugs known as preventers and relievers.

The steroid-based preventers quell swelling and inflammation in the airways and reduce mucus. Taken daily, they reduce the sensitivity of the airways. Relievers are drugs which relax and open up the airways. These relieve symptoms during an attack.

As a result of my condition, nothing is left to chance. I have an oxygen tank and mask in my office at the House of Lords, another in my bedroom at home and one behind the driver's seat of my car.

A couple of years ago, I was travelling along the motorway when someone smoking a cigar overtook me. Even with my car windows up, my chest started to tighten. I had to take a number of puffs of Ventolin immediately.

Then I reached behind my seat, grabbed the oxygen mask and had a whiff as I was driving along.

Can not fly or use public transport

Although I live a full and very active life, asthma has changed my existence beyond measure. I can no longer fly or travel on public transport. I cannot stay in a hotel in case a smoker is in the room next door, or the pillowcases contain residues of dry cleaning fluid.

I can't go to the theatre, restaurants or the cinema. My wife, Mary Elizabeth, has had to change every brand of shampoo, deodorant and make-up which she used to use.

She calls herself my "sniffer dog" because of her uncanny ability to detect a perfume which will cause me problems. Recently, she stepped into a taxi and quickly shouted at me to get back because the air freshener inside could have triggered an attack.

Any guests to our country home are given a list of strict instructions about what they can and cannot wear.

We had a couple of old friends to stay with us last Christmas, and although we had asked the wife not to wear perfume, deodorant or freshly dry-cleaned clothes, her husband arrived with aftershave on.

I immediately needed Ventolin - and my wife had to whisk him upstairs and get him to wash his face twice before every trace of the scent had gone.

Not scared of attacks

Am I ever scared by an asthma attack? I can honestly say that I never have been, because I've always convinced myself that it will pass and I will get better.

In asthma terms, I am the exception to the rule. Apart from the times when I have an asthma attack, I lead a normal life, and I know there are people who are a lot worse off.

Since my maiden speech in June 1994, which was the first time I attended the House of Lords, I live in London during the week so that I can attend debates and meetings and vote five days a week.

I am a Labour peer, and I have a keen interest in health matters.

It isn't only my life which has changed beyond recognition. Because of the asthma, my voice has, too. My natural booming tone has become soft and hoarse because of the steroids I take each day.

But the good news for my daughter and any future generations is that unlike my title, my asthma is not hereditary.

Read more:

Friday, 14 January 2011

Bull Baffles (And Batters) Brains

Read this and when you get a fragrance hit that gives you a blinding headache, the searing burn across the lungs, the filthy taste in the mouth, the need to rush to the bathroom for one good reason or another and serious difficulty with breathing you will understand what the makers claim it is about.

The reason for the bull picture is that there is a rude word I recall from my military days beginning with “bull” which roughly means that the speaker is talking either rubbish or trying to persuade you of something that is distant from truth.

The real reason is profit and the strategy is never to give the suckers an even break.


Science News

Secrets of Scents: Designing the Smells That Sell Household Products

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2010)

Crafting a fragrance for detergents that leaves laundry smelling clean and fresh. Developing a room freshener, scented oil, or scented candle that whispers "cool spring air." Giving toothpaste or mouthwash a refreshing aftertaste that lingers and lingers.

The process for putting the smell that sells into thousands of consumer products is much like composing a symphony, according to maestro fragrance designer Michael Papas, who spoke in Boston at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

"We're talking about the harmonious mixing and matching of potentially hundreds of individual aroma chemicals," Papas explained. "Composers have their musical notes, and we actually use what are called 'fragrance notes' ― three of them ― that unfold over time to the nose like stanzas of a symphony to the ear."

Papas said that few people are aware of the all-pervasive nature of smells. Scents are a part of human experience from the time people awake in the morning to the time they fall asleep at night. Childhood memories stay with people throughout life. And smells can have a powerful influence on human emotions.

"Fragrances can make people feel good," said Papas, who is vice president-executive perfumer at Givaudan Fragrances Corporation, in East Hanover, N.J. He specializes in developing fragrances for everyday products, including laundry products, scented oils and candles, room sprays, and household cleaners.

"Fragrances are part of what has been called 'nasal nostalgia', bringing back long-forgotten memories of pleasant experiences for people to enjoy once again," he added. "We strive to connect with an emotion that makes the consumer feel good and could be perhaps a little nostalgic."

Papas cites as inspiration the computer-animated film Ratatouille, which is about a rat, Remy, who dreams of becoming a gourmet chef. In one scene, Remy impresses a prominent food critic with a delicate, but plain, meal that evokes fond memories of his childhood.

"It was a very simple meal, but it dealt with emotion," Papas said. "It's the same with fragrance. A successful fragrance, much like a favorite movie, food, or song, must create such a strong connection with the consumer.

"It is important for fragrance designers to try to transport customers to another, perhaps better, place or time."

Finding that emotional level while creating soothing scents is not simple, said Papas, a veteran in the industry for almost three decades. For starters, he explained even the most basic of fragrances is complex. Each is a unique blend of synthetic and natural substances, including essential oils extracted from flowers and plants.

Subtle scents found within the fragrances, called notes, characterize the odor profile. These notes, similar to musical notes, must work well together as building blocks to form the bouquet.

Top notes are light, dissipate quickly and are often citrusy, whereas middle and bottom notes are deeper aromas and could be depicted as fruity or woodsy. Anywhere from 800 to 1,500 chemicals, all with their own unique profiles and characteristics, could be found in a product, depending on its complexity, Papas said.

"Creativity is such a fundamentally important aspect to what we do," Papas said. "Look at someone like the pop singer Lady Gaga. Some critics might think she's unusual, but she's creative, and she crosses boundaries and is able to inspire. For me, designing a fragrance is about amazing the consumer in unexpected ways, and I try to cross boundaries."

But a good design, he said, is much more than a pleasant aroma. Designers need to tailor their creation so that it's coherent with the product's ultimate application. The smell of air fresheners must add ambiance and freshness to the home. Likewise, laundry fragrances must have notes that are light and clean.

In requests to develop a new fragrance, clients often request development of a fragrance that contains descriptions of a particular scent and also instructions that the aroma capture distinct perceptions or even help recall certain emotions.


What he really means is a product that is probably addictive and meant to wipe out any natural sense of smell or perception.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Chemicals, Cancer & Others

Below is an article from the latest “Ecologist” on the subject of pesticides, chemicals and cancer. It is 1500+ words long but worth reading if you have the time.

Much of what is said about the way things work and the limitations of the medical profession and related agencies in respect of environmental health could apply equally to other areas of contamination and pollution.


Sandra Steingraber: “There's a taboo about telling industry and agriculture that practices must change to prevent cancer”

The Ecologist - Matilda Lee
30th November, 2010

Having survived cancer, biologist Sandra Steingraber wrote a book to expose its link to the environment. As the film version premieres in Europe, she tells the Ecologist why we must all take a stand on air, food and water pollution

Matilda Lee: Can you briefly explain the idea behind your book and film Living Downstream?

Sandra Steingraber: It represents my best attempts as a biologist to summarise the state of the evidence for the link between cancer and the environment. At the same time, as a cancer patient myself, it tells my own story of my diagnosis, aged 20, with bladder cancer, which has known links to the environment.

It's a personal memoir, and interwoven between the scientific analysis is a story about my return home as a woman in my 30s, a biologist investigating the environmental toxins in her home town.

You see the story of my family, who still farm in Illinois and still use some toxic pesticides; the story of the industrial chemicals that leaked into the drinking water wells there. I really went in search of my own ecological roots and became an environmental detective.

I discover that there is a cancer cluster where I grew up and I'm one data point in that cluster. But I also care for the other people who live there, and I care for the river and the farm fields.

It's a kind of love story between me and this place, but at the same time it's a scientific analysis.

ML: How strong are the links between chemicals and cancer?

SS: The evidence is quite compelling. It's my impression as a cancer patient that there is a disconnect between what we in the scientific community know about the evidence for the link, which is quite a lot, and what cancer patients are told when they talk to their doctors about it, which is very little.

This discontinuity was my motivating force for writing the book. I decided that I wanted to bring the evidence that I knew as a biologist to other cancer patients and have my own life serve as a kind of bridge.

ML: Why aren't we told about all the evidence for the link between cancer and the environment?

SS: For one, there is a double standard: the evidence for the link between, say, hereditary factors and cancer is actually not that strong, and we freely talk about the importance of family history to cancer patients.

We know there is a link between lifestyle factors, such as diet, and cancers such as colon cancer. But for breast cancer, the data are contradictory, yet we feel free to tell women to change their diet as a way of preventing breast cancer, even though the evidence is not very good.

At the same time, we have equally good if not better evidence for a link between air pollution and breast cancer.

To talk about that, the ‘cease and desist’ order would have to be directed at industry, or our energy sector, rather than individuals. Cancer is a disease that makes you feel helpless.

I think there is an intent to make people feel that they have control over their future, so they give them all kinds of tips about what to do in their individual lives. The idea that air pollution and breast cancer are related doesn't really offer an individual cancer patient advice on what to do – we leave it out.

Maybe that is rightfully so. Who needs to be told that the air they breathe is contributing to the disease that they are now trying to fight with chemotherapy and radiation? Maybe that would make cancer patients feel helpless, when we want them to have a fighting spirit.

But then comes the silence. Then we don't turn around and tell industry that we have evidence that combustion byproducts such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are contributing to breast cancer, so we need to stop and get off fossil fuels. That message never gets played out.

I think there is a cultural willingness to tell individual cancer patients what to do, and a cultural taboo about telling industry and agriculture that their practices need to change to prevent cancer.

Another reason is the medical education of physicians. Having taught in the medical and pre-medical programmes at universities myself, I would say that the doctors that are training are not getting a good background in environmental health. It's not part of their curriculum.

The evidence has become much more rigorous in the past decade, and there have been many breakthroughs. Epigenetics shows how environmental signals alter the expression of genes in a way that can place cells on the path way to tumour-formation.

If a physician, like an oncologist or cancer doctor, has not graduated recently, they may not have had that information.

ML: Why is there so little money given to researching prevention (rather than cure) in the major cancer charities?

SS: I don't know. It's a mystery to me as well. In the US, the latest report by the president's cancer panel, part of the National Cancer Institute, was about the link between cancer and the environment.

The panel that reviewed the literature, in the same way that I did, and came to many of the same conclusions that I did, also heard testimony from some 40 experts on the issue of cancer and the environment.

The panel became so persuaded of the strength of the evidence, and so alarmed at how little attention has been given to this, that they took the unusual step of accompanying their report with a letter to the president that said the ‘burden of environmental cancer has been grievously underappreciated’ and urged the president to use the power of his office to remove carcinogens from the air, food and water.

Yet we did not see our cancer charities rally around this report. In fact, the American Cancer Society immediately moved to downplay the report. I find it mysterious and distressing.

The data are there, and we have the opportunity to prevent all kinds of suffering and save lives before cancer even gets started. Our treatments aren't that good. Half of all cancer patients go on to die from it; this hasn't changed very much. I can only speculate about why more money is directed to look at new treatments rather than to prevention.

ML: What has been the response of the chemicals industry to your book?

SS: I haven't heard from them, so I don't know.

ML: What do you want people to do after becoming aware of the link between cancer and the environment?

SS: The bulk of the chemicals that cause cancer are derived from fossil fuels, petrochemicals. Moving our economy away from fossil fuels is already something we need to do because of climate change.

Even though the environment and cancer seems like this big, overwhelming and depressing problem, in fact its root causes are the same as the causes that are killing the planet.

I often use a metaphor: we are all musicians in this great human orchestra. It really is time now to play the ‘save the world’ symphony. None of us has to play solo, but we do have to know which instrument we hold and play it as well as we can.

Everyone has some expertise to bring to this huge human-rights issue: people who are chefs can source from local, organic farmers. I work with young girls who are trying to promote non-toxic makeup and nail varnish.

Architects can design more energy-efficient buildings and find substitutes to materials such as polyvinyl chloride, which causes cancer in workers. Athletes can promote organic playing fields and golf courses; fashion designers can take on the dry-cleaning industry and source organic fabrics.

We all have a role to play. Cancer patients have a role to play, too: we don't give up easily; we fight – I want us to bring that same fighting spirit to cancer-prevention.

ML: The US premiere of Living Downstream took place in your home town. Have things there changed for the better?

SS: I have been delighted to learn that now there is a thriving, organic farm culture instead of endless fields of soy and corn, which were very intensively farmed and used for ethanol production, animal feed or snack food. Now there are famers' markets.

At the same time, in the area where the cancer rates are high, there is a plan to build a mega-hog-farm operation. There are so many chemicals used to raise animals in that way, my concern will be drinking-water contamination. It's the last thing that community needs.

The second edition of Sandra Steingraber's book Living Downstream: An ecologist's personal investigation of cancer and the environment (Da Capo press, March 2010) is available in North America
The European premiere of Living Downstream takes place tonight in Brussels. Sandra Steingraber will be speaking at the European Parliament on behalf of HEAL, a non-profit that advocates greater protection from exposure to environmental chemicals, including carcinogens.

Matilda Lee is the Ecologist's Community Affairs Editor

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Bugs And Air Pollution

It is the time of year for flu’, colds and other bugs to be about giving numbers of people respiratory problems. They will vary from unpleasant to serious and take time for recovery, sometimes longer and shorter.

We have known for many years, if not centuries, that air pollution is a complicating factor in many ways. This will depend on the length of time it has been experienced and the degree and nature of the pollution. Critically, it will often depend on the immediate and wider environment. Those of us who grew up in UK towns before the 1950’s will be well aware of how much some places were worse than others.

What the pollution does is to make many people more vulnerable and for anyone complicate the severity and length of time to recover from an infection or bug might cause. In other words this will be an effect that adds complexity.

In turn such an illness might lead to greater vulnerability in the future and in some cases the effect of the pollution during an illness may be a cause of other issues and problems.

Most medicine is not set up or equipped to deal with this kind of complexity. The air pollution is just part of the background to the illness. For some kinds you are told to avoid it. So, if you are a smoker or go to smoky places you are advised to stop. This may not be easy if your place of work is smoky.

Historically, it has taken humanity a long while to recognise that something in the air is a pollutant and to admit that some are more dangerous than others. Even with all the powers of modern science and ability to inform getting the message across is often difficult.

In the last couple of decades another major pollutant with the capacity to worsen or actively damage health has appeared. The danger of this one is that it is one of the products of modern science and heavily marketed as both desirable and an addition to well being and attractiveness.

These are the synthetic fragrances that are becoming every more powerful and extensive with theoretically unknown propensities. For those who are and know they are affected adversely they can be a real danger.

For those who are not aware and more or less the whole of the medical establishment in the UK there is a total lack of realisation of the part they can play in any epidemic or common illness. In the present flu’s epidemic there will be nothing learned about how they may affect or complicate the treatment or effects.

As I suggest this is all very recent, but then the plagues of the past have often arrived unheralded and humanity has been no wiser about them when they have receded.

But if air pollution of any extent is already a known factor why is not more attention not being paid to one of the strongest and most common forms of it at present?

Monday, 3 January 2011

Ending The World Easily

This is a long item at 1800 words. For those who are either sensitive to chemicals or suffer strong reaction to some or many it will be of interest.


Is Something Wrong With the Sexual Development Of Human Males?
Hals Report – Jon Lockton – 3 January 2011

Have you noticed there aren’t as many males in the world anymore? Well, there isn’t. A growing body of evidence has begun to show something is wrong with the sexual health of human males.

To begin with, Sperm counts have dropped by 50% in the last 50 years worldwide.

On the other hand, sperm abnormalities and rates of male infertility have increased radically. Rates of testicular cancer have also doubled in the last 20 years.The question is, why?

Scientist now believe certain man made chemicals are to blame. These chemicals have been known to interfere with the male hormonal system where they wreak havoc on the building blocks of male sexual development. The problem is, they are everywhere.

60 years ago synthetic chemicals were a futuristic novelty. Since that time, the chemical industry has developed more than 90,000 man made compounds and the vast majority have never been tested for effects on human beings.

These chemicals are found in virtually every consumer product. Chemicals like Bisphenol-A make plastics hard. Other chemicals called Phthalates make plastics soft.

They make cosmetics smell good and our fabrics stain resistant. Yet the question remains, is it really worth it?

For some time now scientist have expressed concerns claiming common chemicals cause profound and permanent damage in children. Now, scientist are just beginning to understand that some synthetic chemicals are far more damaging to boys.

Yes, that’s right, boys. Young adult men are also at risk. Sperm counts in college aged men have fallen dramatically in recent decades. A typical young man produces less than half the sperm his father did and up to 85% of it is abnormal.

In a fertility clinic at the University of Rochester, researchers tracked the crisis by studying the fertility of sperm. The change they discovered was sudden and alarming.

Researches tested college males sperm quality and found only 30-40% of sperm donated actually qualified as donor sperm. (compared to 60-80% in 1985)

The idea of chemicals effecting male fertility and reproduction is an established fact for wildlife biologists. Since the late 1980′s Dr. Louis Guillette has been researching the sexual development of male alligators who nest in the heavily polluted lakes of central Florida.

Guillette has discovered that the sexual organs of the male alligators in these lakes are one-third their normal size. Their reproduction rate in the colony is 90% below average also.

“Were at a point now where we have evidence suggesting that pesticides have the ability to actually alter the development of the testes,” Guillette explained.

“The abnormalities are related to low testosterone levels, the little alligators we study as males have testosterone levels of females.” The strong evidence of chemicals causing sexual abnormalities goes far beyond the study of wildlife.

The testes is a part of the male endocrine system. It is a network of glands that regulates many of the bodies functions. For example, it stimulates growth, regulates metabolism and controls reproduction. These glands also release hormones which are known as the bodies chemical messengers.

The sex hormone testosterone is a chemical messenger that plays a central role in male sexual development. Some synthetic chemicals can disrupt or block the function of testosterone in the body, permanently damaging the sexual development of male children.

This disruption of the human bodies own system may be the greatest unintended consequence of the 20th centuries chemical revolution.

The chemical industry is only 100 years old but has transformed the world.

The second world war accelerated demand for countless new products. Prescription drugs, food additives, synthetic, rubber, nylon and pesticides are just a few. By the early 1950′s the chemical industry was turning out hundreds of compounds.

One product revolutionized the way we live, plastic! Yet virtually all of these new compounds were derived from one source, petroleum. Synthetic chemicals made modern life possible. At first, few suspected synthetic chemicals might be dangerous.

Pesticides like DDT were seen as innocuous, even beneficial. By the 1960′s though, our natural habitat was telling a different story as certain chemicals like PCB an dioxin devastated the environment.

Up until recently doctors believed the fetus was protected from contamination by the placental barrier, but the truth is the womb provides no such protection. For several weeks after conception the embryo is neither male nor female, sex hormones orchestrate the process.

In the seventh week of pregnancy the male reproductive tract starts developing and the sad truth is, chemical exposures are likely behind a 200% increase in genital birth defects. Even after birth the infant is further exposed to chemicals in the mothers breast milk.

For decades, the chemical industry has chosen not to test its products on bodies that are still growing. (they test adult animals to predict what will happen on baby foetuses!!!!!)

Research shows male fetuses are being miscarried in ever-greater numbers. There is strong evidence chemical exposure is killing boys in the womb. One such piece of evidence is Aamjiwnaang, an Indian reserve in Canada.

Scientists turned their attention to the reserve after a study of the tribe’s birth records confirmed a steady plunge in the number of boys born over the last decade.

In fact, by the end of the study two girls had been born for every boy, one of the steepest declines ever studied in the ration of boys to girls. 40% of Canada’s entire chemical industry is near Aamjiwnaang.

The plants release shocking amounts of dioxin, benzene and mercury, toxins known to be toxic to human reproduction. The industry and government continue to remain quiet.

The falling male birth rate is a global phenomenon. There are now more than 20 heavily industrialized nations where male births have mysteriously declined. Since 1970, this has added up to over 3 million fewer baby boys. Yet the danger is not only found in heavily contaminated communities, it also exists in our homes.

Children live in a constant state of exposure to over 1000 synthetic chemicals. They are found in computers, clothing, furniture and bedding. It is in the water and air.

This flood of synthetic compounds has made day to day life a toxic mind field to male children. Virtually all of the chemicals linked to male reproductive problems are linked to petroleum.
A common class of petrochemicals called phthalates (which is used in everything from cosmetics and medical IV tubing to food packaging and childrens toys) has been found to disrupt normal sexual development in male babies.

Phthalates in the mothers body and breast milk have been linked to the disruption of normal sexual development in male babies.

In fact, it’s called phthalate syndrome.
Many soft toys contain phthalates despite the fact they can leech out of the plastic and end up in the bodies of infant children. Phthalates are also widely used in personal care products including deodorant, hair gel, shampoo and body wash.

One phthalate in particular which is used in PVC plastics has been raising enormous concern because of where it is used and who we use it on. Frighteningly, anywhere you look in a neonatal ward you will find one of the most common plastics in the world, PVC vinyl.

This flexible material contains a phthalate called DEHP.

DEHP has been classified as a reproductive toxicant by several agencies around the globe. A reproductive toxicant is a compound that has effects through stages of development on the human reproductive system.

Incredibly, PVC is used to make medical devices such as intravenous tubing, catheters and blood bags. Many studies have demonstrated how DEHP in medical devices can leech from the vinyl ending up in the bodies of vulnerable children in staggering amounts.

On average a person will take in up to 30 micrograms per kilogram of DEHP a day and that is considered a safe level with intake. However, in a hospital setting an infant or a child may receive up to 200 times this amount in a single exposure. This exposure could last for a single day or months.

The frail organs of premature male babies are extremely susceptible to damage. The U.S. dept. of health and human services has also expressed concern that DEHP may be related to male sexual development.

Of all the chemicals raising concern, none is more notorious then Bisphenol-A. More than 7 billion pounds of this chemical is produced yearly. It is the raw material for one of the most widely used plastics in society, polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a hard rigid plastic used in a vast array of products, from DVDs to baby bottles.

Up until recently most people had never even heard of Bisphenol-A, however, it’s been around for a very long time and we’ve only recently discovered how dangerous it is.

Bisphenol-A was first synthesized in 1891 by a Russian chemist. By the 1940′s Bisphenol-A was being developed as a possible drug for hormone treatments after it was discovered that it behaved like estrogen in lab animals.

The turning point came later when it was also discovered that Bisphenol-A could be used in plastics as a way of making clear shatterproof containers and in epoxy resins that line food cans.

Now, its history as a synthetic estrogen has come back to haunt us. Scientist now claim Bisphenol-A is extremely deadly to the male reproductive system.

In 2005, researchers at the University of Cincinnati discovered Bisphenol-A would leech into baby milk from polycarbonate plastic baby bottles and permanently disrupt brain development in laboratory animals. The polycarbonate also disrupted areas of the brain that deal with memory and motivation functions.

The claim that chemicals like Bisphenol-A have no significant effects on the body is contradicted by 100′s of independent studies. Almost all of the studies that found no effect on laboratory animals were commissioned by the chemical industry. Yes, the chemical industry! However, this is much bigger than one single chemical.

Of the 80,000 chemicals in use right now, 85% of them have never undergone testing to study their impact on the human body.

The debate over the safety of man made chemicals will continue to stir controversy for as long as we exist, but we will never live in a world without them again.

It will be decades before we really understand the impact of synthetic chemicals but one thing is for certain, it is damaging the male reproductive system of baby boys.


In his poem “The Hollow Men”, T.S. Eliot said that the earth would end “Not with a bang but a whimper.”