Monday, December 15, 2008

'Gender-bending' chemicals in the environment

Males of wildlife vertebrate species are becoming more female, yikes!

Chemicals from common household products that enter the environment are feminising male wildlife from fish to mammals and suggests potential harm to human beings as well.

See the Chem Trust report, "Effects of pollutants on the reproductive health of male vertebrate wildlife - Males under threat," 07 Dec 2008.

This was widely reported in the media in articles such as: "It's official: Men really are the weaker sex," by Geoffrey Lean. The Independent, 07 Dec 2008:

"Wildlife and people have been exposed to more than 100,000 new chemicals in recent years, and the European Commission has admitted that 99 per cent of them are not adequately regulated. There is not even proper safety information on 85 per cent of them.

Many have been identified as "endocrine disrupters" - or gender-benders - because they interfere with hormones. These include phthalates, used in food wrapping, cosmetics and baby powders among other applications; flame retardants in furniture and electrical goods; PCBs, a now banned group of substances still widespread in food and the environment; and many pesticides."

From the report highlights:

"All vertebrates have similar sex hormone receptors, which have been conserved in evolution. Therefore, observations in one vertebrate wildlife species, may serve to highlight pollution issues of concern for other vertebrates, including humans.

Indeed, given the widespread presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment, effects are likely to be occurring in more species than those currently reported."

For a local flavour, see Bayen et al., 2005. Persistent organic pollutants in mangrove food webs in Singapore. Chemosphere 61(3). doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2005.02.097

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