Monday, December 7, 2009

The Other Enemy of Masculinity

Some weeks ago, reader el chief left a comment about his suspicions on the link between pollution and the seemingly increasing trends in gender abnormalities.

As a professional biologists I have learned to be skeptical about environmental doomsday scenarios, yet skepticism always goes both ways. However, a quick google search at the time revealed less data than interest group propaganda, along with controversies surrounding some of the most straightforward, simple questions.

It all came flashing back when I flipped through an issue of "Men's Health" while doing cardio at my gym (Despite its tabloid makeup, MH often surprises with very insightful and well written docus on general health issues such as the alarming decline in NIH funding and the massive problems arising from the profound irrationality of the animal rights lobby - all of them recommended reads).

To my great surprise (given the pc/feminist brainwash we encounter daily in the mass media) the editorial of the December issue closely mirrored some of the complaints we know from anti-equalist/men's rights blogs: Men of all ages are much more prone to health issues (men are designed as the expendable sex), yet somehow women seem to get first when it comes to fighting gender-specific disease.

If you have the time, I urge you to read the piece entitled "The Lost Boys of Aamjiwnaangfor yourself (or at least the brief summary on their blog). But in either case, keep on reading. There is much to say about the suggested link between polluting chemicals and lowered levels of testosterone in young men given the context of this blog.

The article title refers to a reserve of Indigenous Canadians that borders on a region so heavily industrialized it is nicknamed "Chemical Valley". As you might expect, there is quite a bit of pollution around there. At least there are much higher concentrations of man-made chemicals in the water and soil of this region than the doses that we all are exposed to. And that sandbox-scenario allows scientist to get harder data on possible links between these substances and changes in human physiology.

And this is where it gets interesting.

There is a whole bunch of studies that show that there is a troubling trend in industrialized nations, including the US, Japan and Canada: Women give birth to less and less men.

Nature has an efficient way to deal with the fact that men die more easily than women: It produces more male babies. Normally, there are 105 baby boys for each 100 newborn baby girls. Thanks to their frail genetic makeup, the higher susceptibility to diseases and the testosterone-caused accidents stemming from increased risk-taking behavior, most of these boys will be long dead when the baby girls enjoy their retirement. But by producing more male babies, there are at least enough men around to inseminate the stronger sex. Yet, this effect is about to disappear.

The problem is that nobody really knows why. The effect is still rather small, and there could be many external factors contributing to the overproduction of girls (just think about it: women often take hormonal contraceptives for years and generally get kids later in life than they used to). And then there is the problem that "correlation does not imply causation". Not surprisingly then, there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the interpretation of these data in the scientific community.

So how can you find out whether one factor might be more causal than the others? The best way is to perform measurements where the factor under scrutiny gets altered while everything else remains constant. This can be done in the laboratory (using animals). And the results of these experiments point at the pollutant toxins: many of the substances that permeate our environment in never before seen concentrations act as feminizers. By blocking testosterone and/or mimicking estrogen these "endocrine disruptors" have shown to gender transform a whole variety of species that get exposed to them (estrogen and testosterone are not restricted to humans or even mammals; they act the same way in fish and lizards and many other animals).

But how can you show that this is also the case for humans? This is where the Native Canadians in the Chemical Valley come into play. Given that they are even more exposed to these chemicals than the rest of us, they should suffer more from the consequences. And when it comes to the ratio of newborn males, it couldn't get any more clear: While researchers found the expected overproduction of baby boys during the eighties, things have changed drastically in the late nineties. Now only 35% of newborns are male (you can imagine the consequences for those communities).

But, while this is not the only heavily polluted area that features a decrease in the ratio of male offspring (there are interesting parallels to at least two incidents in Italy and Taiwan), there still remains quite a bit of controversy if chemical pollution is to blame for the worldwide decline in men. Yet, even the spokesmen who were hired by the chemical corporations dare only say that the data is not yet conclusive and that "there needs to be more work" done. That does not sound to me like they are convinced of the opposite, let alone be willing to relocate their own families into this region and voluntarily restrict their fluid intake to the water in those rivers.

As the article lays out - the chemicals under suspect tend to accumulate with age in male bodies, and have the additional property of being extremely potent in rather small doses. And while the article focuses on a single effect - the decline in male offspring - one can but wonder what other changes these feminizing chemicals might have on the male body and mind (cancer is one of them). After all, low testosterone is known not to do anything good to men:
•    fatigue / lethargy / depression
•    impotence / loss of libido
•    loss of muscle / weakness
•    gynecomastia ("man boobs")

So, what are these substances that researchers list as main suspects?
[Note: I am no expert and all of this consists of second hand information]

- found in 92.6% of Americans
- AVOID (likely source): drinks from plastic bottles and canned food (any packaging marked with a '3' or a '7' inside a triangle)

- large class of chemicals; produced during incineration and other industrial processes
- they're now part of our food chain and literally almost everywhere around us
- AVOID: fat (choose lean meat and low fat dairy instead); cigarettes (no brainer); microwaving, scrubbing and dishwashing plastics

- found in 73.8% of all Americans over age 12
(99.7% of us carry the breakdown-product DDE, which has similar feminizing properties)
- likely source: banned pesticides; still lingering in the soil
- AVOID: non-local produce, unwashed produce, unpeeled root vegetables (i.e. carrots and potatoes)

- used as plastic softener (increasingly phased out)
- AVOID: fatty foods, certain personal care products, packaging labeled with a '3' inside a triangle (some might contain phthalates), rooms recently covered with PVC tiles

- found in 99.9% of all Americans over age 12
- likely source: pesticides that got banned globally decades ago; yet still in our food chain (esp. fish and wild game)

So there you have it. While not uncontroversial, it is possible that we are exposed to feminizing agents potent enough to induce measurably impacts our physiology. Whether any of these chemicals (or their combination) could have an effect on hormone-regulated behavior is pure speculation. Yet, it would be surprising if anything strong enough to alter our gonads would spare gender-specific behavior. When it comes to a population wide decline in masculinity and manly behavior there might be more factors at hand than the cultural impact of feminism.


  1. There are plenty of studies show that the average concentration of free testosterone has been declining in men.

    I got tested when I was 18 and my level was 585, which is pretty low... I was shocked. 18 year olds are at a physical peak. I expected around 800, since I was always an athlete, never smoked, drank alcohol, no drugs, worked out and was healthy. 6'1 180 lbs 15% body fat. It must have been the plastic and food.

    The average now I think is around 350-1200 ng/dl. In the 1940s the average level was 700 compared to the 500 today.

    I think I will likely start taking steroids.. hopefully doctor prescribed, if not then... personally for my health once I hit 25 or my level drops under 500.

  2. how's about these studies?

  3. Mostly environmental factors are blamed for the decrease in sperm count and testosterone like radiation of mobile phones, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, pesticides, ozone, estrogen in diet like soy milk and beans. There is just too much crap in the food and environment today. Guys should stop worrying about it and just start taking national testosterone boosters or if they don't care about children real anabolic steroids.

  4. The effectiveness of natural testosterone boosters is highly suspect.

    This is an interesting piece because I've thought about this stuff and how it could effect a man's behavior. A lot of dudes harp on how feminism has negatively effected manliness, but sometimes I wonder how much our environment plays a role.

    HRT (hormone replacement therapy) has become increasinly commonplace. My bet is in my lifetime (currently 25) most dudes will be taking weekly shots of test like they take their multivitamins.

    Good article.

  5. yay for anabolic steroids! hooah!

  6. I take "Alpha Male" T booster regularly. It does good things.

  7. Also interesting to note is fluoridated water. I don't know how many community water supplies in North America are saturated with this chemical, but I have read that it significantly decreases testosterone levels. Fuckin' elite agendas!

  8. I work in a highly-industrialized area surrounded by chemical runoff from jet aircraft and brief exposure to light amounts of radiation. Every guy I know that has had his first kid has a girl 90% of the time. Alot of dudes here have nothing but daughters. Good to know there's actually a bit of science behind this phenomenon at my workplace.

  9. Re: bisphenol-a

    It is contained in truly massive quantities in thermal printer paper, like credit card receipts, and not enought to worry about in polycarbonate.

    (btw, the comment control does not seem to allow one to paste something in. As a result, I typed in the above url by hand and it may not be right.

  10. Thanks for this post. Could you do more on causes of lower testosterone and things to avoid?


    - Breeze

  11. This is a study released in 2009, funny how no fucking media talked about it.

    Also the milk story :

    Its even worse in the USA, because its the only country in the world that allows artificial hormones (produced by Monsanto).

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