Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

« Previous Post | Booster Shots Home | Next Post »

Softeners in plastics may affect masculinity in young boys, study says

November 15, 2009 |  9:10 pm

Boys born to mothers who have above-normal levels of the controversial chemicals known as phthalates in their urine are less likely to exhibit masculine behavior, a new study has found. Phthalates, which block the activity of male hormones such as androgens, could be altering masculine brain development, according to Shanna H. Swan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the new report.

Phthalates are widely used to soften plastics such as polyvinyl chloride and make them flexible. They are used in food packaging, vinyl and plastic tubing, household products and many personal care products, such as soaps and lotions. Although the Food and Drug Administration considers them safe, a 2008 federal law banned the use of six different types in toys such as teethers, bath items, soft books, dolls and plastic figures.Boyplay

Swan had previously shown that some small boys and toddlers exposed to phthalates in the womb had subtle changes in the size and anatomy of their genitals. Researchers are planning to follow those boys into adulthood to determine if  there are changes in their sperm count or if they have reproductive problems.

In the new study, Swan and her colleagues focused on a small group of women who gave birth between 2000 and 2003. Urine samples collected in the 28th week of pregnancy were analyzed for phthalates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When the children were between 3½ and 6½ years of age, the team administered a standard questionnaire called the Preschool Activities Inventory or PSAI that assessed the types of toys children selected (trucks versus dolls, for example), activities such as rough-and-tumble play and other characteristics. They will report Monday in the International Journal of Andrology that the boys whose mothers had the highest levels of the chemical in their urine were the least masculine in their playtime activity. Girls were not affected.

"Our results need to be confirmed, but are intriguing on several fronts," Swan said. "Not only are they consistent with our prior findings that link phthalates to altered male genital development, but they also are compatible with current knowledge about how hormones mold sex differences in the brain, and thus behavior. We have more work to do, but the implications are potentially profound."

— Thomas H. Maugh II

Boys who were exposed to phthalates in the womb were less likely to exhibit masculine play, according to a new study. Credit: Los Angeles Times / Al Schaben

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (4)

So if you eat food stored in plastic you are more likely to be more female than male ?????

That would explain a lot of our society sexual groupings.

This is the dumbest and worst study I have ever read in my life. The assumptions that are being made on the levels of masculine play are so ridiculous I am embarrassed that anyone would publish an article of this nature.

How ironic. The anti-gay pro-business conservatives have always accused the environmentalists of being scare-mongers about the effects of pollution. Now corporate and industrial plastic production results pollution that alters the developmental endocrine balances and, poof!, more homosexual males. Not only proving the biological basis of homosexuality but affecting those who poo-poo'd the 'natural' lifestyle.

My guess is that there would be a small panic and accusation in the article if it was interfeering with girsl reproductive system. I can bet that there would be some comment about society not looking out girls, but since this occurs to boys, there is only mild interest, and of course no condemnation. Even the article title is made to raise as few alarms as possible. "affects masculanity" in young boys. Anyone that has gone to university in the past 20 yrs will know that masculanity is almost always used in the pejorative way, while feminity is positive (hence all this talk about the mordern man having to show his feminin side). While this artile might cover a topic that should be important, its treament is not. Many will disregard this and think what is wrong with boys loosing their masculinity (go to any women's study class in any university in North America you will find many that think this way, along with many women in social studies).


The Latest | news as it happens

Recent Posts
test |  March 15, 2011, 4:00 pm »
Booster Shots has moved |  July 12, 2010, 6:02 pm »