Part II of my summary on the Canadian documentary The Disappearing Male has been particularly interesting because of the focus on two chemicals that we’ve talked about a lot over the last year at Mommy Footprint, BPA & Phthalates. For those that think BPA is only a concern for people with babies (ie baby bottles) ~ this will help you see this isn’t the case. Also, that the chemical Phthalate is just as scary and needs equal attention that BPA gets from the media with educating parents on hidden toxins. The following is a summary from the documentary The Disappearing Male, click here to view Part 1…I’ve used many quotes from the clip, so the source for this article is from CBC Documentaries. Here we go…it’s a long one, and not meant to freak parents out, but to help us gain understanding that the plastic and disposable world we live in needs to be evaluated by our government and changes needs to come swiftly.
The Disappearing Male: Part II <US readers can click here to access the documentary on YouTube>
Children live in state of constant exposure from being surrounded by more than 1000 synthetic chemicals in your home. Chemicals are found in bedding, clothing, toys, furniture, our air, and water. Pollution has become a background chemistry in our bodies and it’s accumulating quickly. A common class of petrol chemicals is Phthalates and is widely used in everything from soft toys, to IV tubing, to food packaging, to 3/4 of all personal care products. Dr. Swan, who is interviewed and quoted throughout this documentary, first started studying Phthalates when she realized, according to the Center of Disease Control, that almost every person in the US, contains this chemical in their body. Also that the chemical seemed more prevalent in woman of reproductive age, along with new data showing they caused significant differences in male offspring. She refers to term called the ‘Phthalates Syndrome’ and these changes in boy babies include testes not descending properly, smaller genitals, and interruptions in sexual development. Along with the well documented fact that Phthalates leech from soft toys, this chemical is used in almost all traditional cosmetics because they cling to the skin and hold fragrance.
There is one Phthalate in particular that is used in PVC plastic causing extreme alarm because of where it is used and who it is used on. If you look around a neonatal ward you’ll find one of the most common plastics ~ PVC vinyl. This flexible plastic contains a Phthalate called DEHP. This Phthalate has been classified as a reproductive toxic, but yet is found in intravenous tubing, antibiotic or blood bags, and numerous studies have found that medical devices can leech DEHP through the vinyl ending up in a babies or children. Findings show a child in the hospital will receive 200x the normal amount of DEHP exposure daily during their stay at the hospital. Male babies are especially susceptible to damage and hospitals should be looking at replacing their PVC equipment with non-toxic forms of plastic.
If there was going to be a movie star in the world of chemicals receiving attention…that would be BPA. It is the raw material for one of the most widely used plastics ~ polycarbonate which is a hard, rigid plastic used in a large array of products. Until the controversy over BPA in baby bottles hit the news one year ago, most people had never heard of this chemical. It’s actually been around since 1891 but it wasn’t until the 1940s that it was developed as a possible drug for hormone treatments, after it was discovered that it behaved like estrogen in lab animals. But the turning point was when it was discovered that BPA could be used in plastics, by making clear, shatterproof containers and could be used to line food cans.
An expert in the documentary states something that really hit home. The fact moms and dads these days are expected to be chemical engineers. The fact this heavy expectation has been put on parents is ridiculous. With millions of pounds of both BPA and Phthalates being produced every year, with the alarms being raised about their affects on people’s health the spokesperson for these chemicals, Steve Hentges, of the American Chemistry Council, continues to state that no reliable evidence has been found that they cause any harm to any person. The experts on the side of human health in this documentary compare that statement and the council in charge of these chemicals the equivalent to the 7 heads of tobacco companies that swore cigarette smoking could not be linked to cancer. Makes your blood run cold to think the chemical lobby can be compared to the powerful tobacco industry that controlled many of the studies on health because they were commissioned internally. Industry is using it’s power to keep the regulatory system at bay, while they continue to make money, denying human health is being impacted.
So in April 2008, it was considered a major victory when the Canadian Government made it’s move on BPA by using the powerful symbol of the baby bottle. The message the documentary is trying to convey is it’s not just baby bottles or baby formula that is impacted by these chemicals. We have built our material world using synthetic chemicals ~ with 80,000 of these chemicals in use and 85% of them have never been tested on what effect they have on human beings.
It will be decades before we know what damage synthetic chemicals have done over the past century. The documentary fears that we have permanently altered the sexual development of male children. The piece leaves us with a final quote that we are moving into a period of the most rapid evolution that our species has ever encountered to date. It is changing what genes make it through to the next generation – and who gets the wrong genes will be less able – which is the definition of evolution.
That wraps up the summary of this documentary which is so important for expecting parents or moms and dads to watch. One statistic I found to be the scariest, because I know many boys that were born with undescended testicles, is this: Boys that have undescended testicles at birth are 8x more likely to develop testicular cancer and 7x more likely to be infertile. wow if this factual, what a staggering, scary statistic and telling about the impact our environment is having in the world of baby boys.