A fascinating yet shocking development has been transpiring over the past few decades: The world is slowly starting to lose its boys through declining male births. This recent phenomenon has a lot to do with the steady infiltration of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our daily lives - chemicals such as bisphenol-A and phthalates.
Over the past few decades, male birth rates have declined in many industrialized countries. Several studies, including one from 2007 out of the University of Pittsburgh, have shown that male births have decreased in the U.S. and Japan, enough to be statistically significant. The math works out to about 17 fewer male births per 10,000 in the U.S., and as many as 37 fewer male births per 10,000 in Japan.
Historically, boys have always outnumbered girls at birth at a rate of about 105 boys to 100 girls. Many think this was due to an evolutionary development that compensated for the inevitable deaths of more men due to hunting and other dangerous activities, such as war. However, current statistics are telling a different story.
Not only are we seeing fewer boys being born around the world but we're also seeing an increase in physical feminization of boys whose mothers were exposed to high levels of these chemicals. Boys in the modern world are increasingly being born with smaller penises and improperly descended testicles. Additionally, male sperm rates have decreased significantly over the last few decades and continue to do so, contributing to the growing fertility issues that are being noted.
The problem for boys occurs because males tend to be more sensitive to disruptive chemicals at the embryonic stage, as well as throughout development. This puts them at greater risk to be miscarried, and they are more likely to suffer from genital birth defects, lower testosterone levels, and a increased risk of testicular cancer as they age.
This phenomenon is not exclusive to humans. It's also being widely observed within the animal kingdom with frequent reports of fish, birds and crocodiles, among other species, experiencing gender issues due to contamination within water sources.
Interestingly, the older age of parents at the time of their child's birth and a growing reliance on fertility treatments also contribute to an increase in female births. Even times of stress tend to favor females births over males.
So what does this mean for the human race? Well, it means that if these trends aren't reversed we could see future generations with a disproportionate number of females. Aside from the obvious issue of mating imbalances, some experts speculate that this could be the first step in our own extinction, as fewer healthy males with healthy sperm will be available to propagate the species.
Nowhere is this trend more visible than in Sarnia, Ontario, a small town west of Toronto. For the last 15 years, Sarnia has experienced a sharp increase in the number of girls born, with close to 65 percent of births being females, and 35 percent being males. Scientists link this unusual disparity to industry in the city that has exposed the population to significant pollution.
Other parts of the world share similar stories. In Seveso, Italy, male births dropped after a chemical accident led to the contamination of residents' bodies, and highly polluted areas in places such as Sao Paulo, Brazil, have also noted sharp declines in male births.
Are there any solutions to this potential catastrophe? The main strategy for all women and men of childbearing age is to avoid unnecessary exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, heavy metals, PCBs, and dioxins. This involves taking a look at eliminating sources of contaminants, such as plastics and other artificial materials used within the home, avoiding body care products that contain phthalates and dioxins, and eating a cleaner diet devoid of metals and harmful pesticides.
It is also important to note that the greatest threat comes as the fetus is first developing, so pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive should be vigilant about what they expose their bodies to.
As conscious citizens, we need to understand that our external world soon becomes the internal, and therefore we need to make appropriate choices of what we allow ourselves to be exposed to. This strategy is necessary not just to ensure that we have a healthy supply of boys for future generations, but also to make sure we protect the precious ones we already have.
(Lilian Presti is a Registered Nutritional Consultant and Naturally Savvy's pregnancy and pediatric nutritionist. NaturallySavvy.com is a website that educates people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun