By Margarita Nahapetyan
Some food, cosmetic and cleaning products used by pregnant women expose unborn baby boys at greater risk of developing birth defects as well as testicular cancer and infertility later in life, claims a new study by Professor Richard Sharpe, one of the Britain's leading reproductive biologists.
Professor Sharpe said that chemical cocktails that are present in many products block the male sex hormone testosterone, and even mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen. The chemicals include phthalates that are found in vinyl flooring, plastics, soaps, toothpaste as well as Bisphenol found in babies' bottles and food can linings, cellular phones, computers and pesticides like pyrethroids, linuron, vinclozolin and fenitrothion. Professor warned that all these hormone-disrupting chemicals were "feminizing" boys in the womb. Because it is the summation of effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals that is critical, and the number of chemicals that people are exposed to on a regular basis is considerable, this provides the strongest possible incentive to minimise individuals' exposure to relevant hormone disruptors, especially women who consider getting pregnant, said Prof. Sharpe.
The investigators said that many of these chemicals could be harmless on their own - but cautioned that their cumulative effect could be devastating for developing fetuses in the womb and warned women who plan their pregnancy to maximally avoid them. There is nothing one can do about chemicals around you, in the environment, however, it is quite possible to control what a baby is being exposed to through lifestyle choices, Prof. Sharpe said. 'Because we do not know the complete list of chemicals that may be hormone disrupters, and we do not know how they interact, we cannot point a finger at an individual chemical, he said and recommended just to avoid them the same way as you should avoid using alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
Basing his findings on an analysis of available evidence, Professor Sharpe came to the conclusion that gender-bending chemicals are likely to blame for a number of birth defects in male babies - and the testicular cancer and fertility issues the boys may be experiencing later in life. His research analyzed studies that focused on birth defects of boy's genitals, low sperm counts and testicular cancer - a range of problems collectively called Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome or TDS.
In a number of repeated experiments, testosterone-disrupting chemicals and chemical cocktails that were found in pesticides, drugs, plastics and household products, were associated with symptoms of TDS in lab animals. After some of the experiments it was found that the chemicals work in combination - triggering problems at doses where the individual chemicals should not be causing any damage. The evidence that the chemicals cause problems in humans was not that strong, but there was still an association seen between environmental chemicals and fertility problems in men, the experts reported.