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Friday, February 29, 2008

Girls Who Were Boys

I've posted a couple of times in the past, most recently here, about how estrogens in the water supply are depressing male fertility and in general wreaking havoc on men's reproductive systems. Well, the evidence continues to pile up about excess estrogens in the environment from contraceptive use:

The findings have inevitably raised concern that people may also be affected, since one-third of the country's drinking water comes from rivers, much of it beneath sewage outfalls. And, whether or not this is the cause, male sperm counts have been dropping precipitously both here and across the world. Studies in more than 20 countries have shown that average amounts have fallen by well over half in the past 50 years, from an average of more than 150 million per millilitre to 66 million. The result is that men are now less than half as fertile as hamsters.


So this explains the drop in male fertility. But there's also evidence that other chemicals in our environment may result in more girls being born than boys, damaged/altered physiology, and an increased tendency toward effeminate behavior or even homosexuality:


Recent tests by WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) on 14 basic foodstuffs taken from supermarket shelves found that every single one contained PCBs, and most were contaminated by phthalates. Scientists at Rotterdam's Erasmus University have found that boys born to mothers exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea-sets. And research at the University of Rochester in New York State has shown that the male children of women exposed to phthalates have smaller penises and other signs of feminisation of their genitals. This may offer a clue to the cause of a mysterious shift in the sex of babies worldwide. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls, in what is thought to be nature's way of compensating for the fact that males were more likely to be killed hunting or in conflict. But increasingly this ratio is slipping - it is calculated that 250,000 babies who would have been boys have been born girls in the U.S. and Japan alone.


Wow. Maybe all this offers some explanation as to the feminization of our society. Not only are there more girls born than should be, but the boys that remain tend to exhibit more female characteristics as well.

Well, at least this sex imbalance cancels out the 'missing women' phenomenon (which I wrote about in my Sex and Gender Inequality in India Paper here). Perhaps soon we'll start hearing about 'missing men' sometime in the future, but I'm not holding my breath.

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