The report – published by the charity CHEMTrust and drawing on more than 250 scientific studies from around the world – concentrates mainly on wildlife, identifying effects in species ranging from the polar bears of the Arctic to the eland of the South African plains, and from whales in the depths of the oceans to high-flying falcons and eagles.It concludes: "Males of species from each of the main classes of vertebrate animals (including bony fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have been affected by chemicals in the environment.
"Feminisation of the males of numerous vertebrate species is now a widespread occurrence. All vertebrates have similar sex hormone receptors, which have been conserved in evolution. Therefore, observations in one species may serve to highlight pollution issues of concern for other vertebrates, including humans."
Half the male fish in British lowland rivers have been found to be developing eggs in their testes; in some stretches all male roaches have been found to be changing sex in this way. Female hormones – largely from the contraceptive pills which pass unaltered through sewage treatment – are partly responsible, while more than three-quarters of sewage works have been found also to be discharging demasculinising man-made chemicals. Feminising effects have now been discovered in a host of freshwater fish species as far away as Japan and Benin, in Africa, and in sea fish in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, Osaka Bay in Japan and Puget Sound on the US west coast..
Scientists at Cardiff University have found that the brains of male starlings who ate worms contaminated by female hormones at a sewage works in south-west England were subtly changed so that they sang at greater length and with increased virtuosity.
Mammals have also been found to be widely affected. Two-thirds of male Sitka black-tailed deer in Alaska have been found to have undescended testes and deformed antler growth, and roughly the same proportion of white-tailed deer in Montana were discovered to have genital abnormalities. In South Africa, eland have been revealed to have damaged testicles while being contaminated by high levels of gender-bender chemicals, and striped mice from one polluted nature reserved were discovered to be producing no sperm at all.
New research at the University of Rochester in New York state shows that boys born to mothers with raised levels of phthalates were more likely to have smaller penises and undescended testicles. They also had a shorter distance between their anus and genitalia, a classic sign of feminisation.
Communities heavily polluted with gender-benders in Canada, Russia and Italy have given birth to twice as many girls than boys, which may offer a clue to the reason for a mysterious shift in sex ratios worldwide. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls, but the ratio is slipping. It is calculated that 250,000 babies who would have been boys have been born as girls instead in the US and Japan alone.
And sperm counts are dropping precipitously. Studies in more than 20 countries have shown that they have dropped from 150 million per millilitre of sperm fluid to 60 million over 50 years.
Make of this what you will. While nobody’s suggesting that every single male on this planet will be a female, a hermaphrodite or a eunuch by this time next week, one can only wonder what some pollutants are doing, alone (or the synergistic effects of two or more pollutants together). I suppose now I have an explanation for being under endowed....