Dr Shanna Swan has come to the conclusion during the course of her research that pollution, namely from chemicals called phthalates, inevitably leads to babies being born with malformed genitals.
In her new book Count Down, detailing the challenges of modern-day reproduction, Dr Swan portrays an “existential crisis” in human fertility, bringing to the fore the hugely adverse impact of phthalate esters, typically used in plastic manufacturing for products’ greater durability and flexibility.
She says, cited by Sky News, that their large-scale release into the atmosphere - resulting from intense production rates of the top-used material - affects the hormone-generating endocrine system, causing a spike in the number of male babies being born with small penises.
Having pored over the so-called phthalate syndrome, the phenomenon whereby rat foetuses were likely to be born with shrunken genitals when exposed to the chemical, the scientist discovered the same trend among humans. Babies who had been exposed to phthalates while in the womb had a shorter anogenital distance (AGD) - a marker of endocrine disruptor exposure and an indicator of boys’ would-be penile volume.
Phthalates, which since they are used in industrial production often end up in foods or kids’ toys, mimic the basic female hormone oestrogen, thereby disrupting the natural hormone-producing cycles in the human body, which cannot help affecting adults’ reproduction system and behavioural patterns.
Separate questions arise about the quality of semen. Dr Swan, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, earlier penned a series of research pieces based on tests done on dozens of thousands of men, in which she claimed, among other things, that sperm levels of westerners had dipped by more than 50 percent over the past four decades. The findings hint at the worrisome risk of men being potentially unable to reproduce by 2045, the researcher notes.