“Shrinking” and “defects” are words blokes pretty much never want to hear in the same sentence as the word “penis”.
But two Aussie scientists say they’re very real issues we need to discuss.
Because according to University of Melbourne researchers Associate Professor Andrew Pask and Dr Mark Green, cases of hypospadia – a penis abnormality which the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne claims “affects about one in 150 male babies, and is usually detected at birth” – has doubled in Australia.
“No one likes to talk about this. Often parents don’t even like to tell their kids they had it – it gets surgically repaired but often the surgeries don’t work very well,” Dr Pask told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“When it’s doubling, it cannot be genetic defects – it takes years for that to spread through a population. So we know it has to be environmental in origin.”
And the two have a theory as to what this environmental origin may be: plastic.
News: Our research crew teamed up with 6 universities from 5 countries to publish this alarming result today in Environmental Science and Technology: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has 180x more harmful plastics than food available for sea surface feeders such as endangered sea turtles and marine birds. Read more in our latest update (link in bio) – Photo by @mattgeophotography
The evidence the pair cite is how easy it has been for them to give baby mice hypospadia – they simply give the pregnant mother drinking water with atrazine.
Which, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority says is “one of the most widely used herbicides in Australian agriculture” in it.
Dr Pask said BPA, phthalates (which are both used in plastics), parabens (which are found in beauty products) and atrazine are all endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs).
“Exposure to these chemicals, this is the No.1 reproductive issue for men,” he said.
What’s more, he also claims EDCs can mimic oestrogen, leading to shorter penis sizes.
However, Professor Pask and Dr Green’s research is not yet considered gospel by the broader scientific community, with government agencies maintaining these chemicals are safe, while other scientists are simply keeping their powder dry on the issue.
“We have clear, indubitable, mechanistic-linked evidence from animals this can happen. Humans are animals. And we know these chemicals are in our bodies.
“So it’s absolutely possible. But we still cannot be sure,” Associate Professor Frederic Leusch, a senior environmental scientist at Griffith University, said.