Environmental health issues that develop slowly due to pollution tend not to get enough attention or action from the government. But in Denmark, environmental pollution’s become a national concern. Why? Danish baby boys are being born with smaller balls.
That’s right — Danish boys' testicles are smaller at birth, reports Florence Williams at Slate — and grow slower too, compared to Finnish balls, which average three times more testicular growth three months after birth. And tiny testicles aren’t just an aesthetic concern. They’re related to a plethora of male reproductive health problems, such as genital birth defects, dropping sperm counts, cryptorchidism (when testicle(s) don’t descend properly), and higher rates of testicular cancer.
Why the smaller testicles? According to Slate, researchers suspect environmental pollution from industrial chemicals, pesticides, dioxins and flame retardants. The Danish boys tend to have higher levels of these pollutants in their bodies than their Finnish counterparts.
How much are Americans like Danes? A lot, according to Slate. The number of American males born with hypospadias (when the urethra opens along the underside of the penis) — a condition linked to phthalates found in many hairsprays, perfumes, and beauty products — is growing. Rates of testicular cancer too are rising — and the growth’s suspected to be due to chemical causing hormonal disruptions.
Unfortunately, while “the Danes have already put in place some of the strongest regulations on chemicals in the world, banning PFOA, phthalates, and a host of other compounds” according to Slate, U.S. regulations are slow to come by. This means that while we push for tougher regulations, the onus is on us to regulate our own homes and lives.
Scared enough to start taking action for your environmental health — but don’t know where to start? I recommend reading Slow Death By Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things, a new book by environmental health advocates that will teach you about the common household eco-hazards and offer quick tips to get as many of them out of your life as possible.