A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 SEPTEMBER 1994


A 1993 BBC “Horizon” TV program
Rebroadcast as a BBC/Discovery production on September 4, 1994, on The Discovery Channel, 7 - 8 pm.

This video is not available from either TV company but we asked the BBC’s office in N.Y. if we could share the video. BBC said yes, we just couldn’t sell it. We are willing to loan our video copy. Please send a check for $2.90 to cover postage to W.N.

The following are excepts from this riveting television documentary that analyzes the rise in male reproductive problems. The cause of these problems are linked to chemicals that act as estrogen-like hormones1.

1. Testicular cancer: Leading cancer in young men. Denmark has the highest recorded rates, 300 to 400% higher than 50 years ago. In the U.S. & the U.K. this cancer has tripled in the last 30 years.

2. Sperm count: Over the last 50 years, a 50% decrease.

3. Non-descent of the Testes Increasingly noticed in young babies.

4. Urethral abnormalities: Figures from several countries suggest the incidence is rising.

5. Prostrate cancer: Doubled in the last ten years.

A consensus on the serious disorders in male reproduction has developed. That consensus centers on the fact that the fetus is being exposed to synthetic estrogenic hormones during fetal development. Every fetus is exposed to its mother’s estrogen during development in the womb, but the mother’s estrogen binds to a protein and doesn’t interfere with the developing fetus. But if other chemicals acting like estrogen cross the placental barrier, they have the ability to disrupt the reproductive development of the fetus.

Scientists are finding increased numbers of hermaphrodites in both wildlife and humans. Abnormalities of the penis were described in this documentary: “It can have a severe form or a very mild form. In the mild form it is just a little cleft in the penis. But in the severe form, it is really so extreme that you can even doubt whether this is a boy or a girl...In extreme cases an inter-sex condition occurs with both male and female characteristics. Figures from other countries suggest the incidence is increasing.”

The model for the transgenerational effects from mother to child of synthetic estrogen exposure is DES. This major medical tragedy occurred when as many as 6 million babies were exposed to the synthetic estrogen DES, which was given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages between 1950-1980. When Dr. Richard Sharpe (MRC Reproductive Biology Unit, Edinburgh] researched the few DES studies available on the male offspring they showed the predicted increase in the reproductive abnormalities. Dr. John McLachlan [Scientific Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, N.C.] found that several important changes occurred in the male offspring of mice if DES was given to their mothers for just two critical days during pregnancy. According to McLachlan, “The thing that really shocked us and surprised us when we looked at the male offspring of these DES pregnancies: they actually had both a male and a female reproductive system existing side-by-side. They essentially were hermaphrodites. And we figured out that this feminization process of the males occurred early in fetal life when all of us, mice and humans, have both reproductive systems and essentially exist in a bi-sexual form. And this process of normal development was blocked by DES and this led to this defeminization. It was actually being feminized at the molecular level and what I mean is that these male mice that were exposed prenatally to DES would actually express female proteins in their reproductive systems later in life, and this is something that never happens in a normal mouse.”

Dr. Theo Colburn, a senior scientist with the World Wildlife Fund, believes these effects center on the hormonal, or endocrine, system. “As I began looking again at the literature closely there were at least 16 top predator species in the Great Lakes that were showing reproductive problems, population decline, fertility problems, immune problems, all developmental problems -- offspring, young chicks born with adult plumage. Something went wrong during that embryonic development. You start looking around the country, you’ll find populations of sturgeons that are just old sturgeons --they are not replacing themselves, they are not reproducing. Here we had evidence in fish in the Great Lakes that have thyroid problems and as a matter of fact in Lake Erie today the thyroids are getting so large that they are exploding. Also the male fish do not reach sexual maturity in the Great Lakes. The fish seem to be hermaphroditic. If you start looking you can find fish with both male and female gonads in the same species. Below pulp and paper mills the males are being demasculanized and feminized, and the female fish are being masculanized and defeminized.”

According to Dr. McLachlan, synthetic estrogens can affect development, puberty, and reproduction in a way that is yet unknown, but has profound implications since a wide range of chemicals can act as estrogenic-like hormones. Ten years ago a pesticide spill of kelthane in Lake Apopka, Florida (close to Orlando), contaminated the lake. DDE is a break-down product of kelthane and is an estrogenic compound. The water today tests clean as far as toxins are concerned. But the estrogenic compounds are stored in fat, not water, and they are being stored in the animals who live in Lake Apopka. Because of a concern for a decline in alligators in Lake Apopka, scientists began tests. According to Prof. Louis Guillette of the Dept. of Zoology at the Univ. of Florida:

1. “In every [alligator] nest there was something wrong with the eggs.” The scientists found traces of a weak estrogenic chemical, DDE, which was contaminating the eggs.” Today, 75% of the alligator eggs are dead or infertile.

2. Males that do survive are demasculinized with a high level of a female hormone. 25% have a reduced penis, and will never reproduce.

3. “Similar changes have been found in the turtles from this lake. Many have become inter-sexed with reproductive organs more like a female with high levels of female hormones.”

4. 20% of the animals in Lake Apopka have this inter-sex condition. “We are not finding normal males.”

Dr. Ana Soto (Dept. of Cellular Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine] found that estrogen contamination of serum samples had occurred in her laboratory. Upon investigation she discovered that an estrogen-like substance was leaching from the plastic tubes used in the laboratory. When Dr. Soto contacted the plastic tubing manufacturer, they denied her the formulation for the plastic on the grounds it was a trade secret. Dr. Soto believed it was important to know what was in the plastic tubing and after several months of investigation she found that nonyl phenol was leaching from the plastic. According to Soto: “It was never supposed to be an estrogen and was supposed to be safe.” Nonyl phenol has been produced in the U.S. for the last 40 years and in 1993 over 450 million tons were produced. Nonyl phenol is used extensively in industry as an anti-oxidant in plastics and in the formulation of detergents and spermicide foams. It is persistent and bioacculmulative in the environment.

In the U.K., hermaphroditic fish are found near sewage outfalls. In an experiment, male fish were left for three weeks in cages at 28 different sewage outfalls throughout Britain. The astounding results were that when these fish were tested they were found to have huge amounts of female hormones in their blood. “These males in effect were changing sex.” The initial suspect was urine excreted by women on the birth control pill. Scientists exposed rainbow trout to the substance in birth control pills and found it was extremely potent for estrogenic effects at low doses. But they could not find it in sewage outfalls and dismissed it as a causative agent. But nonyl phenol was found in both the river water and in the sewage outfalls. 50 micrograms per liter or higher of nonyl phenol were found in rivers in Britain. In the U.K., tests on fish confirmed that nonyl phenol produces a very high estrogenic effect on male fish, mimicking those of the fish placed next to the sewage outfalls. Prof. John Sumpter [Department of Biology & Biochemistry at Brunel University in England] and Dr. Sharpe collaborated on some tests and found decreased testicle size in rats exposed to nonyl phenol at 30 micrograms per liter. The response to their concern when they approached the British Water Services Assoc. was: “There is no need and no requirement in the UK Water Quality Regulations to look for these substances. Nor are sufficiently sensitive techniques available. Hence, routine monitoring has not been carried out.” Fortunately, the International body for Water Quality has initiated plans to phase out nonyl phenol by the year 2,000.

“We live, in effect, in a sea of estrogens.”

According to Dr. Theo Colburn: “It isn’t just one product that’s causing the problem. It’s a host of products. It’s the construction material that we are using, it’s the plastics we’re using. It’s not only the pesticides and it’s not only the chemicals that we’ve released in the past that we’ve banned and restricted, but they’re still out there. In essence what we have to do now is to make sure that we revisit every piece of legislation that’s coming up for reauthorization to make sure that we include not only cancer as a risk element but that we include these transgenerational health effects: the effects on the developing endocrine, immune and nervous system which are all linked.”

Waste Not comment. The U.S. EPA will soon release the Dioxin Reassessment documents for public comment (see Waste Not # 299). We know that trash, hospital & hazardous waste incinerators emit many of the substances (listed below) that are known to act as synthetic estrogens. If the chemical & incinerator industries keep true-to-form, they will put enormous pressure on the EPA to water down their concern for non-cancer effects of these estrogen-like substances. We believe that ordinary citizens fighting incinerators have to find a way to become involved in this public comment phase. We recommends the formation of a Citizens Task Force on MSW Incinerators --see Waste Not # 300. We highly recommend this documentary.

1. Chemicals known to disrupt the endocrine system and act as estrogen-like hormones include: DDT and its degradation products, DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), dicofol, HCB (hexachlorobenzene), kelthane, kepone, lindane and other hexachlorocyclohexane congeners, methoxychlor, octachlorostyrene, synthetic pyrethroids, triazine herbicides, EBDC fungicides, certain PCB congeners, 2,3,7,8-TCDD and other dioxins, 2,3,7,8-TCDF and other furans, cadmium, lead, mercury, tributyltin and other organo-tin compounds, alkyl phenols (non-biodegradable detergents and anti-oxidants present in modified polystyrene and PVCs), styrene dimers and trimers, soy products, and laboratory animal and pet food products. Ref: Advances in Modern Environmental Toxicology, Vol 21, Chemically-Induced Alternations in Sexual and Functional Development: The Wildlife/Human Connection, 1992, Princeton Scientific Publishing Co. -- See also Waste Not #s 220-221.

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