When it comes to many illnesses, boys are the weaker sex by far.
The incidence of asthma, autism, childhood cancer, learning disabilities and behavioural disorders, among others, is higher in boys, sometimes startlingly so. Autism, for instance, almost seems like a male preserve, with boys outnumbering girls four to one.
Why boys appear to be more vulnerable to a host of ailments is a major scientific puzzle, but a new report says part of the reason may be that males are more sensitive to pollution and many hormone-like chemicals widely used in consumer products ranging from computers to plastic water bottles.
"The issue of male vulnerability to environmental hazards is an emerging area of scientific research," said the report by the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment, a group funded in part by Environment Canada and backed by a number of major public health and environmental organizations.
Although the report stressed that girls are more likely to develop some conditions, such as the birth defect spina bifida, it said for a number of increasingly common health problems "boys seem to be particularly at risk."
"We're conducting a vast experiment on our children with the way we let chemicals be used," said Kathleen Cooper, one of the report's authors and researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. She said the experiment "appears to be harder on the boys."
One of the odder recent findings is that in many developing countries, boys are taking it on the chin even in something as basic as the number being born. In Canada, there was a decline of 2.2 males for every 1,000 live births between 1970 and 1990, the latest period for which statistics have been analyzed. The report said one theory for the drop is that hormone-disrupting chemicals are causing mortality in males during fetal development.
In recent decades, there has been a big increase in the use of chemicals that have been found to exhibit hormone-like properties, including flame retardants used in computers and furniture foam, phthalates used in personal care products and soft plastics, and bisphenol A, a plastic compound used in water bottles and the inside linings of beverage and food cans.
"Experimental studies, mainly in animals, have shown that it takes only a relatively small amount of exposure to these chemicals to disrupt normal hormone functioning," the report said. "People are exposed to these chemicals mainly through food and consumer products."
There has also been a puzzling increase in male genital tract defects, including undescended testicles, and hypospadias, a condition where the opening of the penis isn't on the tip, where it's supposed to be, but underneath.
These birth defects have been increasing across industrialized countries over the past three to four decades, coinciding with the period of increased use of hormone-like chemicals in consumer products, according to the report.
Developmental disabilities are also strikingly more common in boys. Besides autism, boys have a higher incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, Tourette's syndrome, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia.
The report said there could be a genetic reason for these observations because there are a larger number of stem cell divisions during male fetal development, providing greater odds for something to go awry.
However, it said there are also about 200 substances researchers have found that are in commercial use and exhibit neurotoxicity, or the ability to damage developing brain and nervous system tissue. Among these are lead, mercury, dioxins, pesticides, solvents, and flame retardants.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Please help the children
I don't normally reproduce entire articles but in this case I feel I had no choice. I found it so appalling that I don't want you to do anything other than read it. Read it thoroughly and then read it again. Do what you can to eliminate these chemicals from your life. Then contact your political representatives and see what is being done to eliminated these products from the market so we can end the poisoning. This is from June 16, 2007 in the Globe and Mail.