[Pharmwaste] World's males are under siege

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Mon Dec 15 09:46:27 EST 2008


World's males are under siege
Masculinity has taken something of a pounding in recent times. The modern man
is often unsure exactly what is expected of him.

He might fear that if he pursues the woman of his dreams too single-mindedly,
charges of sexual harassment will result. Or he might worry he will be called
a sexist pig if he opens a door for a woman or pays for dinner.

But if society is ambiguous about paternity and manhood, nature is becoming
positively hostile. A stunning new report by the British think-tank CHEM
Trust shows that in every class of animal, the male sex is under siege.

>From mammals to reptiles to fish, a demasculinizing trend is under way. Sperm
counts are down in almost every species, in some cases to the point of
jeopardizing reproduction. Widespread hormonal and behavioural abnormalities
are being observed that scientists fear may derail the process of evolution.

The trend is worldwide. Half the male fish in British lowland rivers now have
eggs in their reproductive organs. Two-thirds of male white-tailed deer in
Montana have genital abnormalities.

Male toads in Australia are developing female reproductive organs. Antelope
in South Africa and panthers in Florida cannot create enough sperm to
procreate. Male herring gulls and peregrine falcons are secreting the female
protein required for egg yolk production.

It appears marine mammals are particularly vulnerable. Polar bears in the
Arctic, belugas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and orcas off the West Coast have
reduced testosterone levels. Wild mink and otters are being found with
feminized genitals.

More alarmingly, this turn of events is not confined to the animal world.
Humans also are affected.

Recent studies in Arctic communities show unusually small numbers of boys
being born. The long-standing ratio across the globe has been 106 boys for
every 100 girls -- nature's way of compensating for higher death rates in

But in the circumpolar region, stretching from Russia to Norway to Canada,
Inuit mothers are giving birth to twice as many girls as boys. In some
communities in northern Greenland, there are no boys at all.

While the explanation is still in dispute, a clue may be found in the towns
and villages east of Sarnia, Ont. There, as in the Arctic, female children
far outnumber male infants. One native reserve has only half the normal ratio
of boys. And of these, an abnormal number are born prematurely or with
reduced birthweights.

Sarnia lies in the centre of what has been called Canada's Chemical Valley.
Huge oil refineries and plants are producing agricultural fertilizers,
plastics and synthetic compounds. The communities affected lie directly
downwind of these installations.

Scientists believe so-called gender-bending chemicals are being released into
the atmosphere around Sarnia, wrecking the hormone balance between the sexes.

A wide variety of industrial compounds are implicated, PCBs among them.
Discarded birth-control pills may also play a part.

The same explanation fits what is happening to Inuit families. It appears
they're affected because their diets are so dependent on fish and marine
mammals. Those in turn are specially vulnerable because gender-bending
chemicals are retained longer in water than in air.

If industrial contaminants are indeed the source of this all-out assault on
the male sex, things can only get worse. Toxic waste and pollution are on the
rise, as Third World countries join the ranks of industrial nations.

We've grown all too familiar in recent years with animal species being placed
on endangered lists or becoming extinct. But gender-bending chemicals
represent a different order of threat entirely.

The very structure of life itself is at stake. Unless a massive cleanup
campaign is undertaken immediately, it may be impossible to undo the damage.

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
P: 850.245.8759
F: 850.245.8811

Mercury: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

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