Wednesday, September 24, 2008

a bigger threat than global warming!

Something is tweaking our boy-making! Cue creepy music and villain twirling mustachios...

Here's a long article in the Globe & Mail on a subject I've mentioned before: the genetic fragility of maleness (human and otherwise). None of the info in the article is in itself particularly groundbreaking but it pulls together lots of bits and bobs to paint a very interesting skiffy scenario:

Something is happening to today's boys and men: Fewer are being born compared with girls, they're having more trouble in school, virility and fertility are down and testicular cancer rates are up. Now, scientists say these 'fragile males' may be more vulnerable than females to pollutants, affecting their development as early as the womb. If so, writes Martin Mittelstaedt, it could be a bigger threat to our future than global warming.

Here's Mittelstaedt's nifty list of 'science's top five worries over the fate of the human male':

1. Lost boys

Studies on births from the U.S., Japan, and Canada have found a drop in the percentage of boys born compared with girls. The reason isn't known.

2. Declining harvest

Men in farm country can be half as prolific when it comes to making sperm as their city counterparts, raising the possibility that pesticides undermine male fertility.

3. Downsizing

It's disputed by chemical companies, but some researchers say they have found an everyday plastic compound - phthalates - that feminizes baby boys, causing penises and other reproductive organs to be smaller.

4. Hormones not so raging

If you're a middle-aged man, you're likely to be less virile than your father because you make less testosterone. In recent decades, the decline has averaged about 1 per cent a year. If it continues over another generation or two, the consequences could be dire.

5. Equipment failure

Rates of testicular cancer, hypospadias and other genital abnormalities have soared over recent decades, rising by more than 50 per cent each.

It's not a secret that at some point genetic boyness will have to make the leap to another chromosome (see, for example, the good-in-places, crap-in-others pop-sci book, Adam's Curse, by Bryan Sikes) but this pollutant-based destruction is far more rapid than I, for one, had bargained for. Naturally, a lot of the notions in the article are wildly speculative and, in order to sell newspapers, rather alarmist--but, yes, I do think this, like global warming, really is happening. As with global warming, most people will ignore it as long as they can because it's, y'know, inconvenient. And also, frankly, because of over-the-top articles like this. But, hey, I love a wild theory as much as the next reader.

So, what do you think?

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