In an article published on June 16, 2015 by the news provider Environmental Health News, journalist Brian Bienkowski reports on a new study that links genital defects in baby boys to their mothers’ exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during pregnancy. The peer-reviewed study was published on May 23, 2015 in the journal European Urology. Researchers Nicolas Kalfa and colleagues examined more than 600 children in the south of France and found that baby boys exposed to EDCs in the time window of genital development were more likely to suffer from hypospadias. Hypospadias is a condition where the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis rather than at the tip. It can lead to urination problems and sexual difficulty, and in most cases requires surgery. The researchers excluded baby boys with known genetic risks for hypospadias from the study. They estimated the fetal EDC exposure by assessing the parents’ occupational and environmental exposures to EDCs via questionnaire. They found that mothers working as cleaners, hairdressers, beauticians or laboratory workers were most likely to have boys with hypospadias. EDCs linked to the involved professions include bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7), phthalates, polychlorinated compounds, alkylphenolic compounds and organic solvents. The study does not prove that EDC exposure causes hypospadias, but strongly suggests that EDCs are a risk factor for hypospadias through occupational and environmental exposure during fetal life.
In a related article published on June 18, 2015 in the digital global news publication International Business Times, journalist Joe Millis reports on declining fertility in men that is linked to exposure to every-day plastics. Millis refers to an article in The Times and explains that phthalates breathed in, consumed e.g. in foods or absorbed via skin by pregnant women can inhibit testosterone production in male fetuses and lead to sons with low sperm counts. Phthalates are EDCs and can be found in shower curtains, car dashboards, food packaging, cleaning materials, sunscreen and cosmetics. According to Niels Jørgensen, expert in andrology at the Department of Growth and Reproduction at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denkmark only about one in four Danish men have good semen quality in terms of shape and concentration. Jørgensen considers this worrisome for society and advises to reduce chemical exposure. Richard Sharpe, professor and research team leader on male reproductive health at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland adds that in Europe most women wait until their 30s to early 40s to have children, when their own fertility is declining. This exacerbates the issue of declining male fertility and chances of successful reproduction.
Brian Bienkowski (June 16, 2015). “Genital defect in baby boys linked to moms’ chemical exposure.” Environmental Health News
Joe Mills (June 18, 2015). “Sperm count: Fertility in men on the decline due to everyday plastics say scientists.” International Business Times
Kalfa, N. et al. (2015). “Is hypospadias associated with prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors? A French collaborative controlled study of a cohort of 300 consecutive children without genetic defect.” European Urology (published online May 23, 2015)
Kay Lay (June 18, 2015). “Everyday plastics plunge men into fertility crisis.” The Times (not open access)