The Corpus Callosum

Endocrine Disruptors in the Media Again

No, it is not newspapers and videos that are disrupting your endocrine
system (well, not that we know); rather, the topic
is in the media.  Endocrine
are chemicals that mimic the effects of hormones.
 Perhaps the best-known example is bisphenol-A.
 Others include various pharmaceuticals, dioxin and
dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other

Today I’m not going to review the topic; other ScienceBloggers have
done so extensively.  There are too many to list.
 Just use the search-all-blogs box in the right-hand sidebar
to find them.

I’m just going to point out the fact that a CBC documentary on
endocrine disruptors is now available on Google Video: The
Disappearing Male
.  The program website is here.
 There is a link to the video on the CBC site, but the link
first leads to a notice that the content is unavailable, then plays a
promo for a different episode.  So use this link to view the
Google Video copy: The
Disappearing Male

“We are conducting a vast toxicological experiment in
which our children and our children’s children are the experimental
subjects.” Dr. Herbert Needleman

The Disappearing Male is about one of the most important, and least
publicized, issues facing the human species: the toxic threat to the
male reproductive system.

The last few decades have seen steady and dramatic increases in the
incidence of boys and young men suffering from genital deformities, low
sperm count, sperm abnormalities and testicular cancer.

At the same time, boys are now far more at risk of suffering from ADHD,
autism, Tourette’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia.

The Disappearing Male takes a close and disturbing look at what many
doctors and researchers now suspect are responsible for many of these
problems: a class of common chemicals that are ubiquitous in our world.

Found in everything from shampoo, sunglasses, meat and dairy products,
carpet, cosmetics and baby bottles, they are called “hormone mimicking”
or “endocrine disrupting” chemicals and they may be starting to damage
the most basic building blocks of human development.

Scientifically-minded folks may be annoyed by a few aspects of the
program.  They make a big point about the fact that many of
these chemicals are made from petroleum.  That is true but
irrelevant.  Petroleum is used because it is handy, but the
same chemicals could be made from other sources.  The source
does not matter.  There are a few other things like that,
mostly minor quibbles, though.  I did not catch any
significant factual errors.

The closest thing to an error occurs when they imply that endocrine
disruptors could lead to the end of humans.  While that is
possible, I suppose, I think it is highly unlikely.  There is
no point in speculating about that.  The risks that we do know
about are scary enough to establish their point.

Really, the value of the video is that it underscores the human cost of
the problem.  It also makes the topic understandable for those
without a background in chemistry or physiology.


  1. #1 Renee
    November 27, 2008

    Yeah, they always like to use this “end of the species” argument. I think the most likely effect of a decrease in males are changes in the mating system. You would expect humans to move away from polygyny and more towards monogamy or even polyandry, depending on the severity. Of course, other effects, like the fact that male parental care is no longer essential, could lead to a complete loss of social monogamy, in which case you’d just see males having the greatest reproductive success by failing to pair bond at all and only having casual sex. The good news is that forced copulations would probably fall.

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