Friday, May 15, 2009

Gender-bending chemical timebomb fear for boys' fertility

Another outing for a very tired old scare. This is speculation, not research, and the large number of "don't knows" reveals the extent of the suppositions involved

Chemicals in food, cosmetics and cleaning products are 'feminising' unborn boys and raising their risk of cancer and infertility later in life, an expert warns today. Professor Richard Sharpe, one of Britain's leading reproductive biologists, says everyday substances are linked to soaring rates of birth defects and testicular cancer, and to falling sperm counts. The government adviser's report published today is the most detailed yet into the threat posed to baby boys by chemicals that block the action of the male sex hormone testosterone, or mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen.

Some chemicals are raising unborn boys' risk of cancer and infertility later in life, Professor Sharpe believes. Professor Sharpe says many could be harmless on their own - but warned that their cumulative effect could be devastating for developing foetuses and warned women trying for a child to avoid them. 'You can't do anything about chemicals in the environment but you can control what you expose a baby to through your lifestyle choices,' he said.

'Because we don't know the complete list of chemicals that may be hormone disrupters, and we don't know how they interact, we can't point a finger at an individual chemical. 'The message is to avoid them, just as you should avoid alcohol and drugs.'

Doctors are concerned about rising levels of birth defects, with 7 per cent of British boys born with partially descended testes and seven in 1000 with malformed genitals. The latest estimates indicate that one in six men in the UK has a low sperm count and will struggle to father a child. And the number of testicular cancer cases among men in their 20s and 30s has been doubling every 25 years. [But where are the causal links?]

Following an analysis of available evidence, Professor Sharpe concluded that gender-bending chemicals are 'likely to account for a proportion' [a proportion? What proportion? One percent?] of birth defects in baby boys - and the testicular cancer and fertility problems the boys may ["may". Indeed they may. And the moon may be made of green cheese too] suffer later in life.

His report looked at studies into birth defects of boy's genitals, low sperm counts and testicular cancer - a range of problems collectively called Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome or TDS. In repeated experiments, testosterone-disrupting chemicals found in pesticides, drugs, plastics and household products created symptoms of TDS in laboratory animals. Some of the experiments showed that the chemicals work in combination - causing problems at doses where the individual chemicals should be harmless.

The evidence that the chemicals cause problems in humans was weaker, but still showed a link between environmental chemicals and male fertility problems, the report said. [An epidemiological link, which proves nothing] In one study, scientists looked at families moving from countries with a low rate of testicular cancer to Denmark - which has one of the highest rates of the disease in Europe.

First-generation immigrants had the same level of cancer as their country of origin. But their children - conceived and born in Denmark - had a similar risk to Danes. That indicated something [But what something?] in the environment was to blame. Other studies have shown that mothers exposed to chemicals used in plastics, flame retardants and pesticides [i.e. factory workers who have poorer health anyway] are more likely to have sons who go on to develop testicular cancer. Exposure to environmental chemicals slightly increases the risks of undescended testes and hypospadia - malformed genitalia - in boys, the report found.

Professor Sharpe said TDS has its origins in the period between the eighth and 12th week of pregnancy, when exposure to hormone-mimicking chemicals can interfere with testosterone production in a foetus, preventing the sex organs from developing normally.

Chemicals shown to cause problems include pesticides such as DDT, fungicides such as vinclozolin; a group of chemicals called PCBs used in electrical circuits, paints, flame retardants and glues; and phthalates, which are used to soften plastics. [Any mention of phthalates shows you are in hysteria territory]

Elizabeth Salter Green of the charity CHEM Trust, which commissioned Professor Sharpe's report, said: 'Chemicals that have been shown to act together to affect male reproductive health should have their risks assessed together. 'Currently that is not the case, and unfortunately chemicals are looked at on a individual basis. 'Therefore Government assurances that exposures are too low to have any effect just do not hold water because regulators do not take into account the additive actions of hormone-disrupting chemicals.' She advised pregnant women to keep cosmetic use to a minimum, choose unscented products, stop using perfume, avoid colouring hair and avoid DIY.


Heh! British children's advisor on healthy eating told son is overweight

Will this totally unscientific mania ever fade?

A children's advisor on healthy eating, Michala Forder, has been warned her son Zac is overweight and risking cancer because he is one pound over NHS guidelines.

Health officials sent a letter to Mrs Forder telling her that Zac [above], who weighs 3st 5lbs, is in danger of health problems in later life including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure because of his weight.

Mrs Forder, a pre-school practitioner who advises children about healthy eating, said she was furious at the letter and accused Oxfordshire NHS Primary Care Trust of labelling children and potentially pushing them into crash dieting.

The trust has been weighing and measuring around 11,000 reception year pupils, aged four and five, and year six pupils, aged 10 and 11, as part of the National Child Measurement Programme. It is designed to alert parents to potential health problems. Parents can opt out of the scheme, but if they do not, they get a letter telling them if their child is underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or very overweight.

Mrs Forder, 37, from Carterton, Oxon, said she and other mothers at Edith Moorhouse Primary School, in Carterton, were angry at their children being labelled overweight. The letter indicated that Zac's ideal weight for his age and height should be between 2st 7lb and 3st 4lb.

Mrs Forder said she had not told her son about the contents of the letter, adding: "I could have told him the doctors think he is overweight. He could then take it upon himself to start on an eating disorder because of it."

The PCT apologised for any distress caused to Mrs Forder, and said it was following Department of Health guidelines on the format and content of the letter.

A spokesman for Beat, an eating disorders charity, said: "There surely has to be a better way for this information to be put across that will make things better, not worse. "Such rigid interpretation of these guidelines only serves to stigmatise children for their weight and shape."


1 comment:

John A said...

"There surely has to be a better way for this information to be put across"

Actually, there needs to be information rather than nonsense. The "standards" in use for this program, like many others, are ill-begotten children of syphilitic camels mated with hydrophobic dogs.