September 11, 2006

Confronting the Estrogenic Effect

I am truly half the man my grandfather was.

I wouldn't laugh, gentlemen. You can't hold a candle to pop-pop's sperm count either.

Males - specifically the Y chromosomes that make men, well, men - are under attack. The average sperm count of contemporary human men compared to their grandfathers is dramatically less, approaching the half mark.

Why? Blame it on the estrogenic effect.

Remember that crazy 1980's trend called pollution? It may be time to revisit. In recent years, the mainstream media has all but ignored it.

Think about how many unnatural chemicals that have been introduced to the environment without being thoroughly studied. Think about how many chemicals you use on a daily basis - in your deo, your soap, your food and even your drinking water.

Many scientists believe that these are all having an effect on our reproductive capabilities by causing mutations in our genetic code.

But this "estrogenic effect" is not just harming humans. Just this past week, I found an article about "intersex fish" found in the Potomac River.

The male fish are found with both testes and ovaries caused by the enormous amount of runoff - chemicals and fertilizers, plus hormones like estrogen from birth control products. This stimulates estrogen production in the male fish, disrupting their natural state.

Male alligators in Florida are also feeling the effects of manmade pollution:
In Florida's Lake Apopka, size does matter. Yet it took two years for University of Florida zoologist Lou Guillette to believe his own research findings. His data showed disturbing trends in the male alligator population of this lake, located just outside of Orlando. The most striking finding was the alligators' small penis size: 25% smaller than in normal males. Furthermore, these males had testosterone levels as low as a typical female's--a serious threat to their fertility. How had these "gender-bending" defects occurred? Could manmade chemicals in the waters of Lake Apopka be responsible?
In a word: Yes.

Guillette still remembers when the pieces of this puzzle fell into place. It happened when a colleague told Guillette what he had learned at a recent meeting organized by Theo Colborn. Environmental contaminants, the colleague said, could act like hormones. For example, p,p'-DDE, the major contaminant in Lake Apopka, was known to block the action of testosterone. Suddenly, what Guillette was seeing in Lake Apopka made sense; chemicals were disrupting hormones in these animals.

While the waters of the lake were relatively clean, "gender-bending" pesticides from the spill had moved into the food chain. Alligators were at the top of that food chain, and accumulated contaminants like p,p'-DDE through the fish that they ate. Females then deposited the chemicals in their eggs where they could influence development of the embryos. It all made sense. The population decline, the abnormal hormone levels, the strange structures Guillette had found in the alligators' testes and ovaries...they were signs of scrambled hormone signaling during development.
This is another example of our collective short term memory. Environmental issues are hot when something major occurs: increased number of hurricanes, invasion attempts on ANWR, oil spills, etc. But when the fervor dies down, the media loses interest.

Will they address pollution again when I start growing ovaries?

3 comments:

  1. If you did grow ovaries, you could actually f**k yourself. That, my friends, would be just the kind of major media event pollution needs.

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  2. Great post--I'm going to reprise it on GreenFertility.

    re; Intersex fish, someone from the Fish and Wildlife Dept said it's a lot of intersex fish, but not really "that" out of the ordinary! Someone from that agency also said that on a recent program about how we had a MANATEE swimming in RI's coastal waters that "That happens all the time." ?????

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  3. Thanks for the compliment, Marie. I'll be looking forward to your reprise!

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