The perpetuity of the male gender is increasingly threatened by a constant onslaught of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These include things like bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS) in plastics, glyphosate in Roundup herbicide, soy products in the food supply and arsenic in drinking water, to name just a few. And new research out of Scotland has now linked industrial pollution to the continued decline of masculinity in many parts of the world.
After looking at human birth rates throughout Scotland since the 1960s and comparing the ratio of males to females over time, researchers from Stirling University noticed something disconcerting. The ratio of boys to girls has steadily declined, they found, particularly in areas of the northern U.K. country located most closely to heavy industry. Specifically between 1973 and 2010, the team observed a “significant upward skewing” of the sex ratio in the pristine Highlands area of the county, while a downward shift was observed in more polluted areas such as Forth Valley and the Borders.
Led by Dr. Ewan McDonald and Professor Andrew Watterson, the team focused on central Scotland where there is a mix of both heavily industrialized urban areas and more pristine rural areas. They also looked at both wealthy and lower-income pockets to account for any disparities in birth rates that might be due to socioeconomic status. At the end of the day, the most obvious link to declining male birth rates was industrial pollution, and specifically the kind that interferes with hormone expression.
“We run faster and faster introducing new products and processes. Yet we do not properly understand how they may affect us,” stated Prof. Watterson about the findings. “We lack full toxicity data sets on many chemicals in our environment but proposed Scottish and English developments for example may introduce more endocrine disruptors.”
Published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, the study drives home the need for more investigation into the effects of industrial pollutants on human health. Such research is already taking place in the U.S. and throughout Scandinavia but is only just now hitting the radar of regulators in the U.K., despite the fact that such chemicals have been in use for years, and some for decades.
“The reproductive health of populations is often difficult to measure, particularly before pregnancy and at the early stages,” added Dr. McDonald. “There is strong evidence that during early pregnancy loss, male foetuses are lost more often. The sex ratio, particularly declines in male births, can therefore be a sentinel marker for changes in reproductive health or fertility amongst human populations.
Government tests conducted early last year throughout Scotland found that vehicle exhaust alone breached air pollution limits at 26 urban sites. Toxic concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter released by cars, buses and other vehicles were discovered at each of the sites at amounts that experts say lead to at least 3,000 deaths annually.
“Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to people’s health,” said Dr. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. “Fumes from cars, lorries and buses kill off at least 10 times the number who die in road crashes every year.”
For more information about the worst endocrine-disrupting pollutants found in the environment, be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors:
Sources for this article include: