Common Chemical Causes Genital Deformation?

Phthalates found in many consumer goods could be linked to genital abnormalities

More and more baby boys are being born with deformed genitals.  A chemical found in your perfumes, nail polish and plastics could be the cause of this birth defect.

Dr. Howard Snyder, a surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said he and his colleagues repair the genitalia of about 300 baby boys per year.  This is twice as much as when he first started his practice 30 years ago.

Snyder is mainly concerned with a defect called hypospadias. Hypospadias is when the male organs do not develop completely, causing the urethra to exit the underside of the penis.  It can take several operations to reverse. 

When in the womb, Snyder suspects some of the boys may have been affected by phthalates, which may disrupt hormones that develop sex organs in the fetus.  Phthalates are found in many consumer products, such as plastics, perfumes, deodorants, shower curtains, and nail polish.

In lab rats and mice, doses of phthalates, which are similar to the amount humans are exposed to from the environment, caused genitalia deformation and feminized male animals.  A study from the University of Rochester, also linked the chemical to the deformations.

Phthalates are banned in Europe from nail polish and children’s toys.  But, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is waiting on results from a National Research Council study to assess the toxicity of the chemical.

Right now, there is no direct link between phthalates and the defect, but the increase in cases and the findings effects in animals has doctors worried.

The American Chemistry Council, however, says the animal data may not apply to humans.

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