Plastics blamed for rise in penis malformation

the asian age

Life, Health

Study claims boys are more likely to be born with the disorder if they were exposed to chemicals in womb.

There is concrete evidence of a link between hypospadias and PDBEs, the chemicals found in plastics and fragrances. (Photo: Pixabay)

A new study now claims that there is a link between increasingly common penis malformations and chemicals in plastics, furniture and TVs.

According to the study, Hypospadias is a urethra abnormality, when the opening of the penis forms on the underside rather than on the tip.

The condition affects around one in 200 male children - but rates are soaring, and in some regions, including Australia and the UK, they have doubled since 1980.

According to a team of Israeli researchers, whose study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is concrete evidence of a link between hypospadias and PDBEs, the chemicals found in plastics and fragrances.

The controversial study has caused a flurry of excitement and concern in the medical community, with many acknowledging that the link has merit, but warning that there still is not enough evidence to unequivocally connect the two. 

Hypospadias is present at birth.

In milder cases, the urethra forms not far from the tip of the penis, but in others it can be much further down the shaft, or even on the scrotum.

This new study by the Maccabi Research Institute in Tel Aviv claims to have found strong evidence to support a popular theory: that modern life is to blame for this defect.

PDBEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) have been a popular target in all kinds of medical research papers in the past couple of decades, particularly ones relating to foetal development.

They are a set of chemicals with powerful properties that disrupt hormones, and yet since the 1970s they have been added to all kinds of products to make them less susceptible to flames. 

With time, these chemicals rub off the products and accumulate on the surface.

As the dangers of PDBEs have emerged, more restrictions have been placed on how they can be used to limit our exposure. To assess whether there could be a link between the two, lead authors Shirley Poon, PhD, and Gideon Koren, MD, analyzed 152 mothers of boys with hypospadias, and 64 controls.

They analyzed the levels of PDBEs in their hair - a known noninvasive biomarker for long-term PDBE exposure.

They also looked at each child's medical records, and interviewed each mother with a questionnaire.

Based on the data they collated, they concluded that 'mothers of children with hypospadias were exposed during pregnancy to significantly higher levels of PBDEs'.